The Defense Ministry made its demand in the background of Iran’s growing nuclear threat.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday evening with the finance and defense ministers, their top staff, and the chief of staff to discuss the allocation of “at least” 3 billion shekels to prepare for a possible attack on Iran, Kan 11 News reported Monday.
The Defense Ministry made its demand in the background of Iran’s growing nuclear threat as it continues to abrogate terms of the 2015 agreement.
The Islamic republic has greatly enlarged its uranium stockpile and recently began enriching the material to 20%, a level that sharply reduces the time needed to make a bomb.
In an interview with NBC News Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Iran could be “weeks away” from having enough fissile material for a bomb if it keeps up its current pace. Others say it is up to two years.
In a speech last Tuesday at an Institute for National Securities Studies conference, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi stated Israel would not just stand by and let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon.
Warning that a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with only slight modifications was untenable, Kochavi said that offensive military operations are already on the table. Such a long-range mission would be very complicated, as Iran has spread out the various components of its program over several sites in the country, some deep underground.
During the discussion over Kochavi’s 3 billion request, one sticking point was how to fund it. Finance Ministry officials objected to the funding unless budget cuts were made in other areas to make up for the shortfall. The Defense Ministry countered with two suggestions that were dubbed “creative” by Kan 11 commentator Shaul Amsterdamski.
The first was to take the money from a special emergency fund currently containing some 12 billion shekels that is set aside for rehabilitation of the country and compensation in case of a severe earthquake or war. This fund is replenishable as it consists of a certain percentage of property taxes that citizens pay. The second was to grant a VAT exemption to the defense establishment on future defense imports.
Neither proposal was acceptable to the Finance Ministry, Amsterdamski said. The first suggestion was nixed because the purpose of the emergency fund is not to supplement Defense Ministry needs, and the second idea would impair the future budget of the entire country.
No decision was made at the hours-long meeting. Netanyahu said he would convene the security cabinet Wednesday, the first time it is meeting in nearly two months.