Speaking before the Knesset`s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) said the IDF`s current multi-year plan will be more complex and challenging than previous plans with regards to underground activity, precise missiles, cyberspace, the protection of Israel`s water resources, unmanned aircraft and more.
The nuclear agreement between the world powers and Iran is a bad deal, Netanyahu told the committee headed by MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), adding that even if Iran would comply with the deal`s terms and it would delay the development of a nuclear bomb, the agreement would significantly increase the Islamic Republic`s ability to financially and militarily support Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in their efforts against Israel.
As for the state and defense budgets, the PM said a balance must be found so that the country will be able to simultaneously address its military, economic and social needs – such as education and welfare. Life is still more important than quality of life, he said, while calling for dialogue between the Treasury and Defense Ministry with the purpose of increasing the defense budget, ”since reality demands it.”
Netanyahu also said Israel will have to spend more on effective defense systems. ”Eventually, the defense budget will be more than NIS 56 billion but less than what the defense establishment expects,” he told the committee.
Regarding the dialogue with the US regarding increased aid to Israel and a pledge to maintain its qualitative military edge, Netanyahu said: ”It is not certain that we will get what we want, but we detect an understanding on the part of the US.”
Turning his attention to the wave of Palestinian terror that has gripped Israel, the premier said the Political-Security Cabinet has been working to ease tensions on the Temple Mount in order to reduce the violence across the country. Netanyahu noted that security force were operating inside east Jerusalem neighborhoods, and the rules of engagement have been ”sharpened” so that security forces are able to engage stone-throwers who are threatening civilians.
Further measures aimed at curbing the Palestinian violence include: Freezing the return of terrorists` bodies, increasing financial incentives for police officers in Jerusalem, setting minimum punishments for stone-throwers, revoking terrorists` citizenship and residency, seizing property, annulling the reunification of terrorists` families, working to outlaw the Islamic Movement`s northern branch, examining the establishment of a court for defense-related issues, and combating incitement on the social networks.
Addressing the High Court`s decision to postpone the razing of terrorists` homes, Netanyahu said the court ”is not working on behalf of Israel`s enemies. The government reached a decision to demolish the homes of terrorists, [and the time between the act of terror and the demolition of the terrorist`s home should be minimized] in order to strengthen deterrence. All we ask of the court is quicker decisions, even is these decisions contradict our position.”
The PM said that according to the understandings with US Secretary of State John Kerry, there will be no change in the status quo. Muslims will continue to pray on the Temple Mount, while non-Muslims will have the right to visit the holy site, as has been the case since 1967. He said Israel was examining the possibility of installing security cameras at the Temple Mount complex as a means of either proving that the status quo has remained unchanged or documenting the activities of the rioters.
”On the one hand, (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbbas) is riding the terror wave with words of incitement, while in the other hand he is activating his security forces – meaning he is operating in the West Bank but is inciting in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu argued. ”Abu Mazen (Abbas) is not really interested in direct, unconditional negotiations, yet he threatens to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and is working against the State of Israel by turning to international organizations.”