After weeks of discussion, the Israeli government remains undecided about proposed cuts in defense spending that would be part of an overall reduction of about $666 million in 1996 budget.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin withdrew his support for the Finance Ministry’s proposal to slash $200 million from the defense budget.
Most of the proposed cuts would come from salaries of senior career officers and from social benefits plans.
The prime minister was quoted as telling the Cabinet that the government’s foremost priority at this time is the peace process, and that it should take no steps that could send a message of a weakened security force.
Finance Minister Avraham Shohat took Rabin’s turnaround in stride.
“I will be sorry if the government does not support the defense cuts,” he told Army Radio. “We will just have to find another way to deal with an addition to the deficit of several million dollars.”
This was not the first time that Rabin has shifted his stance on potentially unpopular Treasury proposals.
Last year, after waffling back and forth, he withdrew his support for Shohat’s proposed tax on capital gains.