Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan slammed on Thursday the “intolerable
gap” between those who have access to rocket-protection structures in the form
of safe zones in modern apartment buildings, and poorer people who do not even
have access to nearby, functioning bomb shelters.
Erdan was speaking
during a conference on homeland security held by the Institute for National
Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv.
“A third of Israeli residents have
no protection at all – no safe zones in their apartment, no bomb shelters in
their buildings, and no functioning public shelters nearby,” Erdan
“Thirty percent have safe zones in their apartments. This is an
intolerable gap. We are searching for creative solutions. We’ve set up an
interministerial committee to overcome budgetary and bureaucratic hurdles to
finding solutions,” he added.
Erdan described the gap as a socioeconomic
“time bomb,” noting that those who live in buildings built from 1992 onward have
protection from rockets.
“Who lacks protection? The weaker sections of
society,” he said.
The minister said he was working to ensure that the
poor would not suffer more casualties than other Israelis in any future
“There is a governmental and moral obligation to deal with this
gap,” he said.
Erdan lamented the fact that the gaps in rocket protection
have remained unchanged since the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon
Solutions include government subsidies to install protective
measures in apartments or stairwells, he said.
Erdan also expressed doubt
that the IDF Home Front Command would be able to adequately deal with civilian
emergency needs across the country during a full-scale war.
will try to fire a maximum number of rockets in the first days. It knows the IDF
will try to extinguish rocket fire very quickly. I don’t think the Home Front
Command can respond in many local council areas [at the same time]. It’s the
local councils that must do this. Hence, they have a very important role in
preparations,” he said.
Any conflict would involve incoming Hezbollah
projectiles with an increased range and ability to inflict damage, with some
carrying warheads of hundreds of kilograms of explosives, Erdan
“There’s a different [higher] level of accuracy in a growing
number of projectiles, and there is no effective way to stop the development and
arrival [to Hezbollah in Lebanon] of these weapons. We have to take vital
infrastructure into consideration, otherwise it will be difficult to maintain
operational continuity in a future war,” he said.
Erdan cited regional
instability and cautioned that the level of instability is “very, very
He added that the IDF didn’t always like thinking about the new
threat to the home front, as this “forces budgetary changes” and the directing
of funds to home front defense.
“The home front is still not ready –
neither physically, nor budget-wise, nor in terms of legislation or regulation –
for the scenario that the IDF is talking about. Even after we activate all our
capabilities and our active defense, many missiles will still fall on the home
front,” Erdan said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will soon need to
decide whether to grant Erdan and his ministry greater authority to institute
changes and increase preparations, he added.
“I don’t know of a model in
which a minister has public responsibilities but no authority to take
decisions,” Erdan said, criticizing the lack of powers in the hands of the Home
Front Defense Ministry.
Earlier, Erdan had a disagreement with the
director of the INSS, former Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos
Yadlin, over the scope of the rocket and missile threat.
While Erdan said
that the risk was extensive and very large, Yadlin said the figure of 200,000
rockets and missiles pointed at Israel overhyped the threat, noting that most of
the projectiles were short-range and inaccurate.
“We must put this threat
in proportion,” he said.
“It’s wrong to invest billions in home-front
defenses. This is not how to win a war,” Yadlin added.
The best defense
against rockets and missiles is deterring Israel’s enemies from firing them in
the first place, Yadlin argued.
“Israel has very strong
deterrence. The 200,000 missiles aren’t flying at us, and that’s not
because our enemies our Zionists,” he said.
Early warning systems are
also a key feature, Yadlin said.
“If the public is disciplined and
receives an early warning, the chances of harming us decreases
The IDF should focus on building its versatile capabilities,
Addressing the threat of chemical weapons, he said, “I’ll
repeat what I was thinking in 1991 and in 2003. Gas masks are a waste of money.
The money would be better used in education and health. I don’t know of any use
of chemical weapons against a side that can respond with great
Equipping ourselves with gas masks legitimizes the firing of
chemical weapons against us.”
Missile expert Prof. Uzi Rubin, who was the
first director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization in the Defense
Ministry, said that Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 may have been
the first conflict in history that will be defined as a “war of
Israeli operators sat in bunkers pressing buttons (to attack
targets) in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket-launchers
pushed buttons to fire projectiles at Israel, Rubin said.
didn’t move. This might change the paradigm,” he said.