TEL AVIV (Jul. 21)
Premier Shimon Peres said yesterday he was against any further cuts in the defense budget. “We have to maintain a security posture at a responsible level, and although I don’t think we have gone beyond the red line, we’ve reached the limits of the cuts,” he told reporters during the annual Air Force Day display at an Israel Defense Force base.
Last week, Air Force Commander Gen. Amos Lapidot warned that “painful” cuts in the defense budget could “in the long run lead to a weakened Air Force with lower standards.” He said that cuts in the defense budget have already resulted in the grounding of some aircraft and pilots and reduced air time for training. Lapidot also pointed out that at the same time, Arab air forces are growing in size and improving in quality, especially the Syrian Air Force.
Peres told reporters, however, that “The responsibility for Israel’s security and the IDF’s preparedness will remain a decisive factor in our economic deployment. We shall not hurt the country’s security in order to balance the budget. The new economic program is intended to give us more economic freedom — not less security for our people.”
The air display this year was in lower key than previously, mirroring the defense budget cuts which reduced the number of planes exhibited both in flight and on the ground.