Haaretz is covering the war of words (or hand-to-hand combat) between the Israeli defense and treasury ministries over its budget. There is a constant battle in which the defense ministry attempts to guilt and intimidate the political class into increasing the budget. They do so with shrill warnings about having to cancel military drills and training and being unready to fight the next war–all because of bean counter politicians who won’t properly fund the nation’s security.
But this time the ministry has done something unprecedented. It’s revealed for the first time ever the level of funding for Israel’s WMD program. Until now it’s been a well-guarded secret, as is so much about the military-security apparatus. Actually, it still is. Because the ministry secretary general only revealed the $1.3-billion budgetary allocation was for “special projects.” But my Israeli source informs me that this is a euphemism for Israel’s WMD program. The allocation goes to research and development of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. It constitutes 9% of Israel’s overall defense expenditures (which are nearly $15- billion, the IDF budget alone is nearly $7-billion). Next year, the budget will rise by $250-million. It appears Israel is getting its bang for its shekel, so to speak, as the U.S. spends 16% of its defense budget on WMD.
So you, my readers, are actually the first to know how much Israel spends creating weapons of mass destruction. The source’s claim is further bolstered by the note in the article that points out that this funding is under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and not the defense ministry. In Israel, all top-secret operations including the budgets of the Mossad, Shin Bet and WMD are retained by the PMO. Speaking of the secret services, their budget is $1.9-billion and was increased by 10%. Bibi showers special favors on those budgetary items under his special purviews and awards constant yearly raises.
You may recall I also was the first to report the identity of Israel’s WMD chief, Gen. Uri Oron. This fortuitous incident occurred because an enterprising reporter visiting the Ministry of Defense noticed a secretary’s coffee list on the wall and took a cellphone picture of it, then aired it for all the world to see. Though Oron’s name was blacked out online, when it was aired on live TV the name was clear as day. Naturally, the reporter focussed his entire story on the issue of what beverages the generals like to drink and why their secretaries are serving them hand and foot; without noticing the huge story that fell right in his lap.
Returning to the budget wars, who loses out in this game of musical chairs? The conventional army, the grunts in the infantry; those in the reserves. Bibi likes all the shiny bells and whistles of high-tech warfare and cloak and dagger. As for the down and dirty trench warfare of the infantry soldier–of that he’s not terribly fond.
Haaretz also notes the bloatedness of the military budget which retains tank and air force units (just as a few examples) using 30-40 year old weapons systems that went out of fashion years ago. Despite the ineffectiveness of these units, the generals are loathe to decommission them for fear the public may see what the Emperor is wearing underneath his clothes.