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Thursday, September 22, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Israeli defense ministry only government agency not under civilian control

TEL AVIV — Israel's military, despite more than a decade of government efforts, has resisted transparency.


The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that the military was not cooperating with directives to provide details of its budget. Officials said the Finance Ministry has determined that the military continues to spend beyond its budget and violate requirements to report expenditures.

"The military spends without accountability except to the Defense Ministry, which supports them in the Cabinet," an official said.

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Officials said the Defense Ministry remained the only government agency that operates without civilian oversight. They said the ministry, citing national security, has denied access to government auditors of a range of accounts.

The determination was part of an increasingly acrimonious debate between the military and government. The Finance Ministry has sought to slash three billion shekel [$810 million] from the defense budget in 2012. The defense budget has been reported at more than 55 billion shekel, or $14.9 billion.

On Sept. 18, representatives from the Finance Ministry and Defense Ministry conducted a tense session in an effort to resolve the dispute over the military budget, Middle East Newsline reported. The Finance Ministry asserted that budget cuts would be meaningless without transparency and accountability by the military.

"The Finance Ministry wants a commitment for complete transparency by the military, believing this is more important than any budget cut," the official said.

In the end, Netanyahu was said to have approved the Finance Ministry's recommendation for a three billion shekel defense budget cut. The decision, reported by the Israeli media on Sept. 21, was not announced by the government.

In 2010, the Finance Ministry sought to audit salaries of military officers. But officials said the audit was suspended when the military objected to questions on whether taxes were paid for its fleet of automobiles.

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