Israel’s Secret Services Budget Surged 26% Under Netanyahu

The budgets of the intelligence services, the Mossad and Shin Bet security service grew by dozens of percentage points during the term of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Figures from the state budget published by the Finance Ministry on the government data bases site exposed the hike in funding.

The budgets of the Mossad and Shin Bet in 2012 were NIS 5.91 billion. Another NIS 269 million in spending were for “expenses conditioned on revenues,” and some NIS 300 million more came from budgetary surpluses from previous years. In addition, the services received another NIS 1.75 billion last year in “permission to commit funds” at the expense of future years’ budgets. In practice, the two services actually spent a total of NIS 6.042 billion in 2012, reports the treasury.

The original budget for the Mossad and Shin Bet in 2011 was NIS 5.86 billion, and another NIS 266 million in spending that depended on revenues, and NIS 1.5 billion of funds based on future years’ budgets. All told, the two services spent NIS 5.63 billion in 2011.

The unclassified data do not detail the allocation of the funds between the Mossad and Shin Bet, nor do they show how the money was used, such as for salaries or equipment purchases.

The annual reports from the Finance Ministry’s accountant general on the implementation of the state budget bundle the expenses of the Mossad and Shin Bet within the defense budget − even though these services operate under the authority and supervision of the prime minister and not the defense minister. This arrangement results in a fictitious budget increase for defense of a few billion shekels, compared to the budget presented to the Knesset.

The budget reports the Defense Ministry releases under the Freedom of Information Law do not include these amounts in the figures for the defense budget. The gap between the treasury’s spending reports and the Defense Ministry’s comes from placing the burden for the Shin Bet and Mossad’s spending on the defense budget − and which distorts the political and public debate over the size of defense spending.

The Israel Government Portal on the Internet includes government data bases “as part of the policy of open government, and is based on advancing transparency and presenting reliable and authorized government information for public use,” states the treasury. The transparency and openness implemented since 2005 are expressed in much broader detail than in the past on the budgetary sections and the changes made in them.

Shin Bet Chief Yoram Cohen (left) and Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo in Jerusalem, May 2011.Credit: Emil Salman

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