Israeli Military Chief Warns Against Further Budget Cuts

The Israel Defense Force chief of staff is warning that Israel’s current defense budget is insufficient in light of the threats the country faces.

“The defense budget is not enough to counter the threats surrounding us as we have identified them,” Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak told a gathering of reserve officers.

In January, the Knesset cut $2.2 billion from government programs, including military, in an effort to rein in the deficit and have it total no more than 2.8 percent of Israel’s gross domestic product.

Shahak’s criticism of the defense cuts comes as the government is considering an additional cut of more than $300 million in overall spending.

Meanwhile, a senior IDF officer told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that the army requires a significant additional budget.

The source said Israel is currently facing new threats from the use of chemical and biological warfare, which will require a change in the army’s priorities.

The criticisms of the military budget came as the head of the research division in the IDF intelligence branch, Brig. Gen. Amos Gilad, said that while Syria does not appear to have definite plans for war, Damascus is keeping the military option open.

Regarding Egypt, Gilad said President Hosni Mubarak’s policies are more militant than in the past and he pointed to Egypt’s intensive efforts to arm itself.

He also referred to increased efforts by Arab countries to obtain surface-to- surface missiles that can be armed with chemical and biological warheads.

His concerns were underscored by recent reports that Syria has developed a lethal nerve gas and is in the first stages of mounting it on surface-to- surface missiles.

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