The Defense Ministry is willing to offer the military bases at Sde Dov, Mahane 80 and Sirkin for housing development but the idea has been rejected by the "Israel Lands Adminitration, and the relevant authorities," Defense Ministry Secretary-General Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Udi Shanni told Israel Radio Wednesday, adding that the authorities turned down the offer citing concerns that the land was polluted and a lack of development plans for the sites.
Shanni added that the offer would be part of the wider defense budget cuts to be made in order to appease social protesters over the soaring cost of living in the country.
The secretary general said that Defense Ministry has still not received estimations for what kind of cuts the defense budget faces.
The government has mulled closing the doors to Sde Dov Airport for a number of years. Situated on the north Tel Aviv coast, the Sde Dov compound covers roughly 1,300 dunams (130 hectares), 800 of which are designated for military use. In 2010, The Jerusalem Post reported in that the evacuation of the compound would make room for approximately 12,000 housing units in the popular upscale residential northern Tel Aviv area.
On Tuesday night, the Defense Ministry sent out a scathing statement on the Finance Ministry as the latter reportedly suggested cutting the defense budget in order to satisfy the social movement that has staged demonstrations throughout the country for the past month.
"The conduct of Treasury officials in the past few weeks shows they do not understand economy nor society, nor security," the statement from the Defense Ministry attacked.
"Attempts to discredit the security apparatus and its service to Israel are irresponsible, and we have no doubt that the public is aware of the baseless populist and demagogic rhetoric being used in this context."
"The country’s defense infrastructure will continue to work efficiently and effectively, taking the appropriate measures to provide security to Israel’s citizens."
Home Front Minister Matan Vilnai added to the beratement of the Finance Ministry on Wednesday, accusing the Finance Ministry of causing harm to the Israeli public.
In an interview on Israel Radio, Vilnai said that whoever now seeks to cut the military budget is causing severe harm to the middle class.
The home front minister added that while defense-budget cuts may ultimately be required to ease the rising cost of living, Israel must not jeopardize funding the military establishment in the face of all of the country’s external threats.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said cautiously Tuesday that he is prepared for cuts to be made to the defense budget as part of a government package to ease financial pressure on Israelis.
Speaking at a press conference hosted by the Manufacturers Association in Tel Aviv, Barak said: “The defense budget will – as much as it pains us – be cut within the framework of a package deal that deals directly with the challenges facing the government.
“It is preferable to safeguard the budgetary framework, but whoever thinks that framework is holy doesn’t understand the modern economy,” he said, adding that the government-appointed Trajtenberg Committee must be given the mandate to come up with its own solutions to the high cost of living.
Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh said he has presented the government a plan outlining NIS 11 billion in investments that it must make if it is to solve the financial problems of the middle class. Brosh said funding of the program should not come at the expense of the defense budget, but rather from an increase in direct taxes on high-income earners and companies, and from a 0.5 percent increase in the budget deficit.
“The solution does not need to come from the defense establishment’s budget, because the [security] threats today are far greater than they were a year ago. I don’t see it becoming a major tragedy if a government which approved a 3% deficit in 2011 and a 2% deficit in 2012 now approves a 2.5% deficit. This will contribute NIS 7 billion to funding the program.”
Brosh was full of praise for the Defense Ministry, and Barak and Defense Ministry Director General Udi Shani were just as complimentary of industry.
“The Defense Ministry has been thinking about industry since I was an infant,” Shani said. “The defense establishment and I are certain that our ‘blue and white’ industry is an important characteristic of the Israeli economy’s strength.”
Shani said the ministry works with thousands of suppliers around the country, while Brosh added that 300 factories work with the defense establishment, strengthening periphery towns like Kiryat Gat.
Shani presented a set of changes his ministry has already approved, including faster payment of suppliers, easier access to information on ministry tenders and measures that will enable smaller suppliers to gain a piece of the pie.