Imagine a future war with Hizbullah and Hamas. If we believe the recent predictions of outgoing head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, Israel will face missiles and rockets of various sizes landing everywhere throughout the country – from Kiryat Shmona in the North to Dimona in the South and through Tel Aviv in the center.
If this is true, then Israel can expect on the one hand devastation in its cities like never before but also in its forests. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, while rockets landed frequently in cities in the North, particularly Haifa, they also landed in fields and forests, burning down some 15,000 dunams.
Analysis: Heroism, resilience… and gnawing questions
Background: ‘You’ve never seen such flames’
While this is just under half the amount burned down since the Carmel inferno began on Thursday, it should have been enough to serve as a wake-up call for the government that something needed to be done to deal with future large-scale forest fire. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
All Israelis are familiar with the changes in the IDF – the increased
training and upgraded weapons and defense systems – since the war as
well as the changes to the Home Front Command which has received
additional budget allocations to hold nationwide exercises aimed at
preparing the country for the expected devastation from the next war.
But while the Defense Ministry established the National Emergency
Administration and made other critical changes to the Home Front
Command, the Olmert and Netanyahu governments both continued the
decades-old neglect of the Fire and Rescue Service, denying it the
budgets required to serve as an effective firefighting unit in a country
The numbers speak for themselves. International standards are about one
fireman per 1,000 citizens. In Israel the ratio is closer to one for
every 10,000. There is also the issue of the shortage in fire retardants
which Israel desperately need to extinguish fires from the air.
Firstly, this is not the first time this has happened. During the
Second Lebanon War, planes were sent to Europe to bring back fire
retardant materials to extinguish the forest fires raging in the North.
In addition, there is at least one Israeli company that makes the
material. The problem is that Israel is not ordering.
Who would have thought that the mighty Israel, which waged war in
Lebanon four years ago, fought against Hamas in the Gaza Strip two years
ago and is reportedly plotting an extraordinary military strike against
Iran would need to reach out to over a dozen different countries to ask
for help in putting out a forest fire?
But this is what happens when the country’s leaders are shortsighted and
fail to foresee the inevitable. For the United States it was Hurricane
Katrina. For Israel, it is the Carmel fire.
What will happen next is pretty obvious. At the cabinet meeting planned
for Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who smartly reached out
immediately to countries for assistance when he realized Israel could
not deal with the blaze independently, will announce that he has ordered
the immediate transfer of funds to the Fire and Rescue Service.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose office is responsible for the fire
service and in a normal western country would have likely resigned or
been fired for the failures that led to this fire, will blame the
Treasury for failing to transfer funds. In turn, the Treasury will
release its own accusations. But like previous national mishaps, no one
will personally take responsibility.
The Second Lebanon War served as the IDF’s wake-up call and the Carmel
fire will serve as the Interior Ministry’s. It is time that Israel stop
depending on wake-up calls and begin to counter challenges ahead of
time. Especially ones that are written on the wall in flaming orange