Israel’s war with Hamas likely to cost it another $14 Bn in 2024; will result in near-tripling of its budget deficit

Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza will likely cost it at least another 50 billion shekels ($14 billion) in 2024 and result in a near-tripling of its budget deficit, the Finance Ministry said Monday, projecting that fighting will last through February.

Briefing lawmakers, the ministry’s deputy budget commissioner Itai Temkin said the war was expected to stretch at least two months into 2024, adding 30 billion shekels for security and another 20 billion for civilian and other expenses.

That, he told the Knesset Finance Committee, would drive up total defense spending by more than 48 billion shekels beyond what had initially been allocated.

Noteworthy, the total budgetary spending in 2024 would rise to 562.1 billion shekels from a planned 513.7 billion and lead to a budget deficit of 5.9% of gross domestic product, up from a target of 2.25%.

With the deficit expected to widen by 75 billion shekels to 114 billion shekels next year, Temkin said the gap would require cutting other expenses or raising revenue.

He also it was not currently possible to plan for the possibility that the war against Hamas Islamists in Gaza would stretch into March or beyond.

Worth mentioning the Israeli Parliament this month approved a special war budget for 2023 of nearly 30 billion shekels to help fund the war and compensate those impacted by the Oct. 7 cross-border attacks by Hamas that sparked the war and by rockets launched from Gaza and Lebanon.

Moshe Gafni, chairman of the finance committee, said he was opposed to raising income taxes but supported taxes on excess bank profits and measures to promote economic growth.

The ministry estimated a fourth-quarter economic contraction of an annualized 19% from the third quarter, which had seen growth of 2.5%.

For all of 2023, it projects growth of 2%, or flat per capita growth, and 1.6% growth in 2024. It expects the annual inflation rate to end the year at 3.1% and ease to 2.6% next year.