Israel is not interested in an escalation with its neighbors, Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared Monday, as a fellow cabinet minister threatened to destroy Iran if Israel is attacked by the Islamic Republic.
On Monday, Barak led a meeting of the Defense Ministry's Emergency Economic Forum and explained the purpose of the current emergency home front exercise.
"The Second Lebanon War created a reality in which the home front is another front during a conflict and its resistance is a condition for victory," Barak said, while adding that Israel was not "interested in escalating the situation in the region."
As Barak tried to reduce tensions between Israel and its neighbors, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said during a visit to exercise headquarters that Israel would destroy Iran if it was attacked first.
"An Iranian attack will prompt a severe reaction from Israel, which will destroy the Iranian nation," Ben-Eliezer said. Teheran, he added, "is definitely aware of our strength. Even so, they are teasing us with their alliances with Syria and Hizbullah, and supplying them with many weapons, and we have to deal with that."
A minister criticized National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer for threatening Iran, saying that what Ben-Eliezer said was "unnecessary and harmful."
According to the minister, "the reality in the future is likely to be many times more severe than that with which we are familiar. We are facing a reality in which the home front will become the battlefield."
Speaking during a visit to the war room offices that were established as part of the emergency drill "Turning Point 2," Ben-Eliezer asserted that "the exercise that Israeli is simulating at the moment is not a false display or a fictional scenario."
Ben-Eliezer continued, "In a future war, it will be much safer to live in Nahariya or Shlomi than in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Because I foresee that during the opening blow, hundreds of missiles will rain on Israel. No place in the country will be outside the range of Syria and Hizbullah's missiles and rockets."
At 10 a.m. on Tuesday, sirens will blast nationwide. Civilians are being asked to quickly locate the closest bomb shelter or protected room.
The security cabinet met for more than two hours on Monday evening at the Prime Minister's Office, debating how to take action in the event of an attack on Israel from multiple fronts with twice the missiles of the Second Lebanon War.
The ministers were told that mortars were being fired on Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood from the West Bank and rockets were being fired from Tulkarm at the Sharon region and from Lebanon on the North. They had to decide how to handle the home front - for instance, making sure that the hospitals were properly equipped and that the population had enough food in their bomb shelters. The ministers did not discuss how to retaliate against Israel's theoretical attackers.
"We dealt with real tough dilemmas and in real life it will be harder," said one official who took part in the meeting. Barak, his deputy Matan Vilna'i and IDF Home Front Command officers led the meeting.
The five-day drill opened on Sunday with an announcement by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the weekly cabinet meeting of an outbreak of hostilities following the firing of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel by Hizbullah in Lebanon. The simulated conflict quickly escalated and by the afternoon - representing the fourth day of the "war" - Israel was also "being hit by Syrian missiles and Hamas-fired Kassams and Katyushas."
During the exercise, rescue services will drill mass evacuations from "hit zones" - including chemical and biological attacks - and hospitals will drill their abilities to treat thousands of "injured."
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to the report.