​Israel gives military 10% spending boost, covers Gaza campaign costs

​Israel gives military 10% spending boost, covers Gaza campaign costs
On the eve of the Jewish New Year, the Israeli PM and Finance Minister have showered the Defense Ministry with gifts, agreeing to boost the military budget by 10 percent in 2015 and cover the one-time costs of the latest Gaza bombing campaign.

By 2015 the country’s military budget will be increased by 10 percent and will reach 57 billion shekels (or $15.5 billion), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Wednesday.

In addition the government would cover most of the costs from the Gaza war, Netanyahu’s statement issued after talks to head off a fiscal crisis in the governing coalition said.

The 50-day Gaza conflict which ended last month has underpinned hefty budget demands by the Defense Ministry. Israel’s defense chief Moshe Ya’alon says costs of the 50-day campaign, preceded by the operation to return the three kidnapped youths, eventually exceeded $2.5 billion.

“Look what we did in Gaza. At the start of the operation, there were 10,000 rockets. Today it’s one fifth of that. ... We attacked more than 6,000 targets, more than 5,000 by air and about 900 by ground and sea. In order to attack these targets in an urban, built-up environment, you need precision intelligence and thousands of high-end precision weaponry. That all costs money,” said the military chief according to Defense News.

“Fifty days of combat is an expensive matter,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid pointed out. “The Israel Defense Forces [IDF] needs to restock and we will not spare one shekel when it comes to the security of the people of Israel.”

A Palestinian stands in his badly damaged house as the ruins of houses, which witnesses said were destroyed during the seven-week Israeli offensive, are seen in the east of Gaza City August 31, 2014. (Reuters/Suhaib Salem)

With Israel also preparing for a possible confrontation with arch-foe Iran and trying to manage a weakening economy, the budget standoff had stirred speculation that Finance Minister Yair Lapid could quit the cabinet.

Lapid, a centrist partner in the conservative premier’s government, had balked at proposals for a bigger increase in defense funding, fearing knock-on tax hikes. Lapid had previously said that the costs of the war would have to be covered by a 2% across-the-board retroactive cut in the 2014 budget.

Although the Defense Minister lobbied aggressively for an 11 billion shekels increase to the defense budget, on top of covering ‘one-time’ costs namely Operation Protective Edge, the allocated sum still falls about 8 percent short of the 70 billion shekels sought by the military.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the country’s fourth submarine, the INS Tanin - built by a German shipyard - docked at the Israeli Haifa Naval Base.“This event sends a crystal clear message to our enemies,” Israeli PM Netanyahu said at the ceremony cited by Reuters. “The State of Israel is determined to face any threat, any challenge at any time.”