In 1991, during the First Gulf War, Eyal Eisenberg was part of an elite team of
Israel Defense Forces soldiers stationed near the nuclear reactor outside of
The soldiers were equipped with the most sophisticated protective
gear in Israel at the time and their job was simple – to immediately reach the
site of every Iraqi Scud missile fired into the area and to identify whether any
of them carried a chemical warhead.
While Saddam Hussein fired some of
the Scud missiles – none of which were carrying chemical warheads – in the
direction of the reactor, they all missed their target.
Over 20 years
have passed since then and Eisenberg is now commander of the IDF Home Front
Command, in charge of preparing the Israeli public for the potential fallout of
a future war that the IDF predicts could lead to the firing of 15,000 rockets
and missiles into Israeli cities.
A soft-spoken officer, Eisenberg served
during the Second Lebanon War as the commander of a reserves division that was
later criticized by the Winograd Committee for not meeting its
The criticism did not prevent his promotion. In 2008 he was
appointed commander of the Gaza Division, a position he held for two years,
during which he commanded over Operation Cast Lead.
Last June, he was
appointed commander of the Home Front Command.
Eisenberg often thinks
back to his days as a young major stationed near the Dimona reactor as the
turning point in the nature of warfare and threats Israel faces as a
Drawing on the PLO rocket attacks against northern Israel in the
1970s and ’80s, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein understood in 1991 that the home
front was Israel’s weak link. Today that threat has only grown.
to updated IDF assessments, in a future war, Haifa and its surrounding areas
could come under fire from 12,000 short-range rockets, Tel Aviv and the larger
Gush Dan region from around 3,000 medium-range rockets and the rest of the
country from close to 600 long-range missiles.
While the ranges are
increasing, so is the level of accuracy. By 2017, the IDF believes that Hamas
and Hezbollah will have a pool of about 1,600 missiles with a level of accuracy
of a few hundred meters and 800 with a level of accuracy of just a few dozen
meters, giving them the ability to hit what they want. Home Front Defense
Minister Matan Vilna’i often tells guests to his office on the 15th floor of the
Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv that in a future war “this building won't remain
Eisenberg believes that the Home Front Command’s role in a
future war can be split into three parts. On the one hand, it will be
responsible for assisting the IDF in maneuvering through enemy territory and
defeating the enemy, whether Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip or
Its second role, with the use of its search-and-rescue units, will
be saving lives from under the rubble of buildings leveled by the missile fire.
Its third will be to support the local councils and municipalities in Israel to
ensure that they can continue to provide basic services for their
The Home Front Command often refers to the Second Lebanon War
as a model. During 34 days of fighting in the summer of 2006, a little over
4,000 rockets were fired into northern Israel costing the economy a loss of NIS
1.6 billion. Forty-three civilians were killed, meaning that there was a ratio
of one Israeli casualty per 100 rockets.
Eisenberg tells his subordinates
that the Home Front Command needs to aim to lower the ratio to one casualty per
1,000 rockets and to do everything it can to minimize the damage to the Israeli
This can be done mainly by ensuring that the home front is
resilient and that the Israeli people feel relatively safe, which can only
happen if the public is prepared.
For that reason, the Home Front Command
has increased its training regimen for the coming year.
Later this month,
for example, it will hold its firstever civil defense exercise simulating an
attack against Israel by a radioactive dirty bomb. As Iran moves forward with
its development of a nuclear weapon, the threat of nuclear terrorism is also
One of the ways to minimize the impact a future war will have on
the Israeli economy is to do what Eisenberg has done over the past half-year – divide the country into 290
different sections and create a system under which an alarm will only go off
inside the are that the incoming missile is heading toward.
is that a siren that sounds in one neighborhood in Jerusalem will also sound in
the one next to it. As a result, the Home Front Command is working with cellular
phone companies and the Communications Ministry to send messages to people’s
private cellular phones and to open internet connections on computers with IP
addresses within the targeted area.
This way, if a person hears a siren
and receives a second indication – either on a cellular phone, a computer or the
radio, only then should he enter a bomb shelter. Otherwise he can keep doing
whatever it is he was doing.
Shortly after taking up his post, Eisenberg
stirred controversy in September when he said publicly that the likelihood for
an all-out war in the Middle East was increasing.
“After the Arab Spring,
we predict that a winter of radical Islam will arrive and as a result the
possibility for a multi-front war has increased, including the potential use of
weapons of mass destruction,” Eisenberg said in a lecture at the time at a Tel
Aviv think tank.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak came out publicly against
Eisenberg and media reports claimed that he was also rebuked for the comment by
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.
For the most part, Eisenberg ignored
the controversy and later explained to his subordinates that his goal was to
provoke awareness within the Israeli public about the growing missile threat
that the country is facing in the region.
His rationale is quite simple –
it is better to be safe than sorry.