Israel in danger by a lack of budget

Israel in danger by a lack of budget

 The political turbulence that Israel is going through over the last past two years brought with it collateral damage in a number of fields.

The most dominant, of course, is the social fracture. Israeli society is more divided than ever. The sectors that make up the State of Israel — Jew, Arabs, religious, secular, Ashkenazi, Mizrachi — are all pitted against one another by our politicians who then use this rift to score points with their constituencies.

In their campaign events, they warn supporters about what “they” — their political rivals — are saying about them, and de-facto are dehumanizing people with different world views.

And while this threatens Israeli internal cohesion, the lack of a functioning government has also damaged Israel’s ability to protect itself from outside threats.

That we passed over 2020 without a proper budget (except the last week of the year, which seemed like a joke at the expense of the public), and that we are already almost three months into 2021 without one makes long-term planning for large organizations — like the IDF — almost impossible.

Planning in the IDF’s encompasses three areas: short-term planning for each year, medium-term planning for five years (multi-years plans like “Tnufa” and “Gideon”), and long-term planning for the next 10-15 years.

These proposals include the rearranging of units according to changing threats and needs; procurement of new weapons; development of new weapons; and the manufacturing of munitions and new weapons, all of which are in line with the IDF combat doctrine and threat matrix as understood by the country’s intelligence community.

 But the lack of an annual budget harms all three circles.

The current political/budgetary situation gives the IDF a “¹⁄12 budget,” meaning that every month it receives ¹⁄12 of the last annual budget that had passed in 2018.

Without adjusting the budget to the actual needs of the security system, it is hard to plan ahead. This forces senior IDF officers to improvise and create new sources for the money that is needed to fund the needs of a military – a military that needs to be constantly vigilant in the face of the many threats that Israel faces along and beyond its borders.

A direct impact of this crisis was seen in the Air Force’s procurement plan announced a few weeks ago.

In the past few years, the IDF warned that its old Yasur heavy-lift helicopters had to be replaced. A former senior IAF officer told The Jerusalem Post in January that it was a “medical miracle” that these helicopters were still flying.

Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel, a former IAF chief, told reporters in November that the failure to pass a government budget – part of the fight between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz – was significantly impacting the ministry and its procurement plans.

He also said that the IDF urgently needed new air platforms. “There is no country in the world that flies platforms that are this old,” he said then.

Luckily – or wisely – the Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry overcame their disagreements regarding the payment method for the procurement deal, and managed to give a green light for purchasing new refueling tankers and munitions, as well as give the okay for the IDF to exercise a preexisting option to purchase another squadron of F35 stealth fighter jets. They also decided that the CH-53 K model will replace the Yasur.

But despite pushing this plan forward – which should have been approved a while ago – the IDF without a proper budget still needs to improvise and fiddle with its projections in order to keep going.

The memorandum of understanding between Israel and the US, which provides the IDF with $3.8 billion annually, as well as other partnerships between the IDF and foreign militaries, allow the army to hold on to a steady source of income.

It is great that Israel receives foreign aid for its military. That it is the only steady part of its budget is absurd.

The first task of the next government will have to be passing an annual budget.

The recent IDF Intelligence Directorate assessment showed that in almost all fronts — Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza — Israel’s enemies are developing new capabilities and are preparing for the next war. 

The IDF should not be hanging on a thread, without the ability to properly plan ahead.

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