The deal, which would procure new fighter jets and helicopters for the Israeli Air Force, is currently stuck due to the lack of a state budget.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
While Israel gears up for its fourth round of national elections in a two-year period, a critical arms deal between the U.S. and the Defense Ministry remains frozen.
The deal, which would procure new fighter jets and helicopters for the Israeli Air Force, is currently stuck due to a lack of a state budget and internal squabbles between the Finance Ministry and the Defense Ministry.
With the new round of elections scheduled for late March, the earliest a state budget could potentially pass would be in mid-2021.
In order to secure funds for the arms deal, the Defense Ministry asked to defer paying back a massive loan taken from the Israeli government until 2028, while paying 1 billion shekels in interest.
Asi Messing, Legal Advisor to the Finance Ministry, slammed the Defense Ministry’s proposal in an open letter in October.
“The use of the loan in the manner proposed by the Ministry of Defense for the purpose of financing defense procurement, is entirely intended to circumvent the statutory expenditure limit, bypassing government priorities and Knesset approval in accordance with accepted practice,” Messing wrote.
However, with no state budget, the Defense Ministry has little choice but to explore creative options to obtain the aircraft it needs for Israel’s defense, ministry officials said.
In November, Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel told local media in Tel Aviv, “No other military in the world flies aircraft this old. Flying 50-year-old helicopters with 50 people on board during wartime and 30 people on board in peacetime — that’s not safe.”
“If there should be a large-scale conflict, these platforms, which are critical and need to be available and up-to-date, will not be at the quantity or level of availability needed,” Eshel warned.
If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz worked together to jointly present the deal to the cabinet, the deal could be approved before the next round of elections.