Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday expressed the need for an increase of $1.4 billion to the Jewish state’s defense budget, citing “dramatic changes” in the Middle East region.
Defense officials believe that the military and political changes affecting Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon mandate a substantial increase in defense spending.
In 2015, as part of lateral budget cuts to all government ministries, Israel’s defense and finance ministries agreed to a five-year defense budget of 31 billion shekels ($8.8 billion) annually. The agreement stipulated that barring a “major change” in defense needs, that figure would not change.
Lieberman told reporters on Monday that in his view, Israel’s annual defense budget should increase to 44 billion shekels ($12.5 billion), but that the Defense Ministry can ultimately make do with an increase of 4.8 billion shekels ($1.4 billion) over the next three years. He said the increase is necessary because “dramatic changes have taken place — some we can talk about and some we can’t.”
According to Lieberman, recent developments in Syria — namely, Russia’s involvement in the civil war there, the introduction of additional advanced weapons and the accelerated pace of Iran’s military entrenchment in the region — are part of an “unprecedented and major change” that could not have been predicted.