The 2019 budget for the Mossad and the Shin Bet is expected to break a new record: 9.6 billion shekel, or about $2.8 billion, most of it going to the Mossad, Kan News correspondent Gili Cohen tweeted Wednesday. The new figure represents an increase of almost 12% over the previous year’s budget. For comparison, the IDF budget, with more than 175,000 soldiers, hovers around $21 billion.
The news, ahead of the Netanyahu cabinet’s meeting Thursday morning on next year’s budget, follows a much cited appearance of Mossad chief Yossi Cohen at a Finance Ministry forum Tuesday, where he touted his agency’s efforts to remain the number one clandestine service in the world.
“The Mossad has a responsibility to gain absolute superiority in the world of espionage,” Cohen stressed. “We can’t afford to be in second place – be it in manpower, in cyber defense, in our ability to obtain intelligence, in operations and the personnel running operations, in technology and command, and in dealing with staff welfare and human resources.”
The overall state budget for 2019 comes to 479 billion shekel, roughly $140 billion. It is expected to be approved by the cabinet by early Friday morning, without significant objections. At that point, the budget and the regulations bill, dealing with its point by point applications, would be submitted to the Knesset for approval. Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Finance Minister Kahlon (Kulanu) pledged their commitment to getting the 2019 budget passed by the end of March, before the conclusion of the winter session.
Getting next year’s budget to pass in a timely fashion speaks to the resilience of the coalition government – at a time when its public image is all but resilient, plagued as it is by accusations—and police investigations—of corruption.
On Wednesday night, Netanyahu spoke with Welfare Minister Haim Katz (Likud), who opposed the budget over a dispute with the Finance Ministry on the need to raise disability pensions – the subject of large-scale demonstration and traffic blocking on the part of Israeli disabled. Netanyahu and Katz will meet ahead of the cabinet meeting to reach a compromise.
Meanwhile, disabled activists have announced that they would renew their protests on the highways in the coming days, since the proposed bill does not link disability pensions to the national wage index.