Despite Austerity Drive, includes $3 billion in US grants / Israel boosts its defense budget by around 6 percent, defying calls for cuts under an austerity program. The Prime Minister says the increased spending is needed to fend off regional instability.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced a boost in defense spending of around 6 percent this year, defying calls for steep cuts under an austerity programme.
Netanyahu said the money would come from trimming other government services and by selling off assets such as prime real estate currently taken up by army bases.
[Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister]:
" ... given the abundant challenges and threats surrounding us, it would be a mistake, even a big mistake, to cut the defense budget. I thought, further, that it would be more proper to expand the defense budget at this time. And therefore we are hereby adding U.S. $780 million in real terms."
As a justification for the move, Netanyahu indicated the apparent rise of Islamism amid pan-Arab political upheaval, Iran's nuclear program and tensions with former ally
The 2012 defense budget had been projected at around $13 billion US dollars, a 6 percent slice of gross domestic product.
Last year an economic reform panel audit recommended the defense budget be cut by $668 million dollars. That proposal was fiercely opposed by national security chiefs.
Netanyahu says some of the money for the new defense funds will come from cuts to other government services and the sale of prime real estate currently taken up by army bases.
He also promised more efficient use of the $3 billion in annual grants from the United States.