Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned on Sunday that Israel’s northern communities are severely unprepared for war.
“The better [preparedness] is in the South, in the area around the Gaza Strip. The worst situation is in the North,” he said at a conference organized by Yediot Aharonot.
Liberman said that since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the government has invested some NIS 1.7 billion ($485 million) in protective facilities in southern Israel around the Gaza Strip, where some 46,000 residents live, spending an estimated NIS 37,000 ($10,600) per resident.
Over the same period of time, in the North, which is home to about 244,000 Israelis, the government has spent NIS 236m. ($68m.), or approximately NIS 970 ($280) per resident.
“In other words, we invested 37 times more in the Gaza perimeter than in the North,” Liberman said. He said the expenditure imbalance was despite the strength, range and quantities of weapons in the hands of Hezbollah, which differ significantly from those used by Hamas.
“Since I became defense minister, I have held 52 meetings and discussions on the issue of protecting the home front. I can do another 48 and that will not change the situation,” he said. Liberman has been in his position since May 2016.
Earlier this year, Liberman reached an agreement with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to allocate NIS 150m. to strengthen and fortify protective buildings in the North. However, on Sunday, Liberman said the government would need to add NIS 1b. ($286m.) a year in order to fully upgrade and install shelters in the region.
Hundreds of US Marines, IDF troops train in southern Israel (Anna Ahronheim)
“If we want fortifications in the North, there must be a multi-year plan of one billion shekels a year. This is the minimum to bring the North to the level of the South.”
In November, Liberman accused the Finance Ministry of stalling in funding implementation of a 2014 government decision to increase protection for the home front, especially for communities in the North.
The northern border has seen relative quiet since the 2006 war, but the IDF sees the northern front as the most explosive, nonetheless. It believes the next war in the North will not be limited to one front, but involve the entire northern border with both Lebanon and Syria.
The military also expects that during the next war with Hezbollah, the terrorist group will try to bring the fight to the home front by infiltrating Israeli communities in order to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.
Over the eight-year civil war in Syria, Hezbollah has gained immeasurable fighting experience, as well as new advanced weaponry, for their role in fighting for President Bashar Assad.
Israel fears that Iran will help Hezbollah produce precision-guided missiles and help it and other Shi’ite militias strengthen their foothold in the Golan Heights.
Liberman reiterated Israel’s position Sunday that Israel will not allow Iran to establish itself in Syria nor develop nuclear weapons.
“We’re not just saying it, we mean what we say,” he stressed.
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