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Israeli Intelligence Services Budget Increased 26% Under Netanyahu

Israeli intelligence budget in billions of shekels (Haaretz)

Aluf Benn, writing in Haaretz (Hebrew here), reports an enormous increase in the budget of the Mossad and Shabak intelligence services during the Netanyahu regime.  Funding increased 26% overall to a 2012 figure of $1.5-billion.  If you think the intelligence budget is opaque here in the U.S., try figuring out how they spend money in Israel.  My Israeli economics guru, Shir Hever, has often reminded me that the public budget is only a fraction of what these agencies really spend.

Like here, there is a black budget that is essentially off the books.  Presumably the only officials who know what’s in this are senior U.S. intelligence officials themselves, the president and perhaps the Congressional oversight panel members.  In Israel, there is even less accountability.  As Benn points out, though the Treasury has offered numbers, it does not tell you anything about how it is spent or on what.  That is left to your imagination.  Further,the Mossad and Shabak are not funded as other government agencies are.  In terms of oversight, hey are within the office of the prime minister.  In budgetary terms, they are included under the defense ministry budget.  At any rate, these arrangements give them extra “flexibility.”  Figures can be fudged, projects can be massaged.  All in the name of national security.

For example, a portion of the $400-million George Bush budgeted for covert ops against Iran is reported to have found its way to the Mossad for its cyberwarfare and assassination/sabotage campaign.  None of that would ever show up in any publicly accessible data.  We can reasonably assume that a great deal of that increase during the Bibi years has to do with ramping up intelligence operations against Iran.  Not to mention, the campaign publicly announced by Yuval Diskin in 2007 to target on a broad scale Israeli Palestinian nationalist leaders (like Azmi Bishara and Ameer Makhoul) for prosecution.  All this takes money. Lots of it.

Unlike here in the U.S., there is almost no oversight of the budget.  Yes, there is an intelligence subcommittee of the Knesset which is nominally responsible.  But no minister or MK would dare question the budget of the security services.  They’d have their heads chopped off politically (or literally) if they did.

Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon apparently believed in economy, because their intelligence budgets were drastically less as you can see in the accompanying chart.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Nikki June 6, 2013, 1:05 AM

    ” They’d have their heads chopped off politically (or literally) if they did.”

    Literally? You aren’t serious, surely?

  • Nimrod June 6, 2013, 1:49 AM

    It seems that this trend started in 2006.

    Could the reason behind this growth be the pullout from the Gaza String in 2005 or the capture of Gilad Shalit?
    Or maybe the 2006 war with Hezbullah, where the Israeli intelligence was lacking.
    I assume that they also spend more on intelligence because of the progress in the Iranian nuke program.

    I’m not so sure that Ariel Sharon believed in economy – the pullout from Gaza cost the Israeli tax payer more than 9 Billion NIS, and that doesn’t include the compensations paid since then. Add to that the investments that had to be made for protecting Israeli public buildings and private homes in areas around Gaza, compensations to damages in property and the cost of military operations since then.

    Sharon and Olmert may have believed in the economy of their own pockets, since both are (or at least of of them still is) corrupted to the core.

  • Ken Houghton June 6, 2013, 10:33 AM

    “Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon apparently believed in economy, because their intelligence budgets were drastically less as you can see in the accompanying chart.”

    I did, and don’t see how you conclude that about Olmert, whose Intelligence budget went up ILS700MM in two years, compared to Bibi’s call-it ILS600MM (from a higher base) in his first two years, and less than that over the past two.

    Don’t get me wrong; I suspect the Uses (investigative priorities) may be significantly different. But the Intelligence budget has been on a steady path since invading Lebanon in 2006, and the rate of increase in that path has, if anything, decide from Olmert to Netanyahu.

    • Richard Silverstein June 6, 2013, 5:03 PM

      You’re right. Olmert did increase the intel budget significantly. It was only Sharon who deserves credit for cutting it.

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