At a time when its regional threats are perhaps greater than they have been since 1973, Israel has passed a national budget that slashes billions from its defense spending.
During the predawn hours on Monday, Israel's cabinet voted 13-12 to approve the proposed 2009 national budget, which cuts some 4 billion shekels that had been promised to the Defense Ministry.
The extra defense funds were allocated following Israel's less-than-stellar performance in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. The increased defense spending had originally been held up by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as evidence that he had learned the lessons of the war's many failures.
The budget wrangling also undercut Olmert's assertions earlier this summer that his administration had been marked by unprecedented economic growth and stabilization.
Olmert is likely to lose his job when his ruling Kadima Party holds an early primary election next month and the winner is given the opportunity to form a new government. If the winner is Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, he has vowed to drastically alter the budget that was passed on Monday.