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Gallant: Smotrich endangering Israel by delaying purchase of fighter jets

Unless the squadrons of F-35 and F-15 fighter jets are purchased this month, their delivery will be delayed by an additional three years, according to Israel's defense minister.

Israeli Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem, Dec. 26, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Israeli Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem, Dec. 26, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over the weekend accused Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich of endangering the Jewish state’s security by temporarily freezing the purchase of two fighter squadrons.

“If we do not finalize the process of purchasing the squadrons from the U.S. within a month, it will delay the acquisition of the planes by three years and will increase the price for the State of Israel by an additional billion shekels [$268 million],” said Gallant, according to Channel 12.

Smotrich last month informed the government of his intention to freeze the purchase until the coalition agrees to establish a public committee that will advise on the distribution of the increased defense budget.

The move put on hold two deals worth a combined $9.5 billion to procure squadrons of F-15 and F-35 fighter jets for the Israeli Air Force.

Smotrich slammed security officials’ demand to “receive a blank check for huge amounts, which have massive consequences for the economy and the quality of life of Israeli citizens, without any critical thinking, brainstorming, professional, public and government discussion.”

Smotrich’s proposed public committee would include representatives of the Finance Ministry, the defense and security establishment, former senior officials from both sides as well as external experts.

Smotrich has claimed that Gallant “prevented the committee’s establishment while seeking to create facts on the ground that require huge budgets, including through these aircraft purchase deals.”

The defense minister hit back on Friday, charging Smotrich with “harming Israel’s security” and adding that “at a time when we are fighting a multi-arena war, the implications of this are clear.”

In response, Smotrich called on the government to immediately approve the establishment of the commission, as previously agreed to by the Prime Minister’s Office and Israel’s National Security Council.

He added that the Finance Ministry was prepared to immediately “allocate the full amount that will be required in order to bring about a strong and sober army.”

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