Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan tendered his resignation on Tuesday – the same day his director-general, Dan Ronen, resigned – and advised the prime minister to shut down the ministry.
The move came after a protracted struggle between Erdan and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who rejects the idea that an additional ministry is needed to prepare civil defenses for wars and emergencies.
“Out of concern for the public good and the security of the home front, I’ve decided to do the right thing in this situation,” Erdan said in his letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
“The home front needs one responsible party, which is clearly and centrally in control of all the required authorities,” he explained. “The division of authority between the Home Front Defense and Defense ministries does not allow for the preparation of the home front in the most professional manner.”
Erdan’s comments represent a u-turn. He previously called for a clear division of responsibilities and more powers of oversight and enforcement to be given to his ministry.
In his letter to Netanyahu, Erdan said the change in his position stemmed from the ongoing stiff resistance he had encountered from the Defense Ministry over his ministry’s powers. He said he still believed that the best solution was for a strong Home Front Defense Ministry, though this now appeared impractical.
He added that he would continue to serve until May 31.
A spokesman for Ya’alon declined a request for comment.
In his own resignation letter, sent earlier in the day to Erdan, Ronen wrote that the ongoing dispute with the Defense Ministry had left the Home Front Defense Ministry paralyzed and the Israeli civilian sector unprepared for emergencies. He lamented the lack of oversight powers and the inability to enforce policy aimed at better preparing civilians for war and natural disasters.
Ronen recalled a July 2013 plan drawn up by the National Security Council to significantly strengthen the ministry but said that “nothing since has happened other than discussions, committees and exchanges of documents with the Defense Ministry.” He added that the current state of affairs could lead to governmental confusion and misplaced responsibility.
“I came to this position with motivation and readiness to contribute from my experience...but to my sorrow I cannot continue to accept this situation in the absence of a clear definition of authority and responsibility,” he wrote.
Ronen held a series of senior posts in the Israel Police and Border Police. At the height of the second intifada he served as head of the police Operations Branch and during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 directed police forces in the Northern District on behalf of the public security minister.
“In recent months, I’ve seen how critical it is to prepare the Israeli home front for emergency situations like an American attack in Syria, earthquakes, snow and more,” he went on. “I have no doubt that the State of Israel requires an independent ministry with full authority and a full-time minister who will deal with preparations and management of the home front during an emergency, and not a ministry that will be subordinate to the Defense Ministry.”
In July 2013, during a security conference, Erdan said Netanyahu would soon need to decide whether to grant him and his ministry greater authority to institute changes and increase preparations.
“I don’t know of a model in which a minister has public responsibilities but no authority to make decisions,” he said.
MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) reacted with sarcasm to the home front defense minister’s resignation.
“Erdan is a great minister,” she said. “He wants to close everything under his authority. First the Israel Broadcasting Authority and now the Home Front Defense Ministry. One more push, Erdan, and we’ll close down this bad government, too.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.