Netanyahu seeks cuts to 2014 budget o finance Gaza war

Netanyahu is seeking cuts of two percent from every government minister, other than defense

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Israel's cabinet convened on Sunday to debate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call for swinging budget cuts to pay for the 50-day military campaign in Gaza.

Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and Finance Minister Yair Lapid are seeking cuts of two percent from every government ministry -- other than defense -- to raise about 2 billion shekels ($561 million, 425 million euros).

According to documents released by the cabinet office ahead of Sunday's weekly meeting, the biggest proposed cut is to the education ministry, which is being asked to give up 480 million shekels.

Welfare and social services are being asked for 62.6 million and health spending is to be trimmed by 43 million.

Welfare Minister Meir Cohen protested, saying there was no more fat on his budget to trim.

"From whom will we take? From those who have nothing to put in their children's sandwiches for school?" he said on Israeli army radio.

Netanyahu's own office, which is responsible for the domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, the Atomic Energy Commission and other departments, is to lose 33 million.

The foreign ministry, long bedevilled by dwindling budget allocations and rocked earlier this year by a strike of senior diplomats and a lockout of the foreign minister from his Jerusalem office, needs to trim 11.9 million shekels.

The original 2014 budget was itself an austerity package which Lapid said was essential for the country's economic health.

It was to have cut 3 billion shekels from defense spending but after hard lobbying from Yaalon 2.75 billion shekels were reinstated.

Lapid warned at the time that if defense spending were not reined in the axe would fall on health, education and social spending.

Sunday's cabinet session took place in southern Israel, near the Gaza border, in solidarity with Israelis pounded by thousands of rockets and mortar rounds until Tuesday's truce.

"I hope that this quiet will continue, but we are prepared for any scenario," Netanyahu's office quoted him as telling the meeting.

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