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.
Analysis: Heroism, resilience… and gnawing questions
Background: ‘You’ve never seen such flames’
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.
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 fires. 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.
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 fire-fighting
unit in a country like Israel.
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 6,000. There is also the issue of the shortage
in fire retardants, which Israel desperately needs to extinguish fires from the
First, this is not the first time this kind of thing 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
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
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
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
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 Israel
stopped depending on wake-up calls and began to counter challenges ahead of
Especially ones that are written on the wall in flaming orange