JERUSALEM — The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is considering a huge increase in the defense budget.
Under a proposal relayed to Olmert and senior ministers, the defense
budget would be increased by 30 billion shekels, or $6.8 billion, over the
next three years. The current annual military budget is $7.7 billion.
Most of the additional funding would be used to purchase
weapons, platforms and supplies to sustain a conventional war with such
adversaries as Hizbullah, Iran and Syria, Middle East Newsline reported.
On Sunday, Olmert Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Finance Minister
Abraham Hirchson agreed to decide on the proposed budget increase by Sept.
4. The military request came in wake of the 33-day war with Hizbullah, which
pointed to serious deficiencies in supplies, munitions and armor.
On Monday, a senior Israeli minister became the first Cabinet member to
openly blame Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz for the military's failure
to defeat Hizbullah. Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said
Halutz failed to properly plan and direct the war against the
"He who is at fault is the one who thought that this could be settled
through air strikes," Ben-Eliezer said. "He who is at fault is the one that
who ignored the need for a victory by the ground forces."
Under the military request, the 30 billion shekels would be spent mostly
over the next two years. Officials said the funding would help repair main
battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and other platforms damaged during
"A joint Finance Ministry-security establishment team would submit a
report to Prime Minister Olmert by the end of the week regarding costs of
the recent fighting in Lebanon in order to return the amount to the budget,"
a statement by the prime minister's office said. "A joint National Security
Council-Defense Ministry-Finance Ministry team will be set up to
formulate budget recommendations for 2007 in order to improve the military's
preparedness and readiness to face future challenges."
Officials said the money would also launch major projects, including an
anti-rocket defense system and electronic MBT protection system. They said
the funding would also renew reservist training, suspended for much of the
last three years.
On Sunday, Peretz met with senior officials on the feasibility of an
anti-rocket system. The defense minister has directed the ministry to
examine the U.S. laser prototype system, Sky Guard, produced by Northrop
The military budget has been set at 34 billion shekels [$7.7 billion],
with another $2.2 billion in annual U.S. military aid. But military
officials said most of the budget has been allocated for salaries, benefits
On Sunday, a leading U.S. lawmaker said he would introduce legislation
to increase U.S. aid to Israel. Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat and
No. 2 on the House International Relations Committee, said he would block
$230 million in proposed U.S. aid to Lebanon until Beirut agrees to the
deployment of international troops along the border with Syria.
"Lebanon will get help from both Europe, the Arab world and the United
States," Lantos said. "Unless the United States provides some aid to Israel,
Israel receives no aid."