Who takes responsibility for the country during war?

A former senior official said, "The IDF cannot worry about distributing food to citizens when rockets are falling in Tel Aviv or distribute money to ATMs around the country."

February 13, 2019 07:49
3 minute read.
Maj.Gen.(Res.) Yitzhak Brick in National Criticsm Committee, December 12th, 2018.

Maj.Gen.(Res.) Yitzhak Brick in National Criticsm Committee, December 12th, 2018.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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Former IDF ombudsman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick has written a report criticizing the readiness of IDF Ground Forces, Walla News has reported. Brick also said there are gaps in readiness of the Home Front Command, the report said, adding that behind the scenes, there is a raging argument between the IDF and the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) concerning responsibility over management of the economy during war.

“We’re talking about nothing less than a scandal,” Brick was quoted as saying. “It’s unlikely that the IDF will manage the civilian economy in war. The IDF cannot worry about distributing food to citizens when rockets are falling in Tel Aviv or distribute money to ATMs around the country. The IDF cannot tell the Electric Corporation to save reserves or times of emergency.”

The head of NEMA, Brig.-Gen. Zev Tzuk-Ram, recently wrote to chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi about responsibility and readiness for the civilian economy in wartime.
In it, he noted that former defense minister Avigdor Liberman appointed a committee headed by Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi to investigate cooperation between NEMA and the IDF Home Front Command. NEMA was then defined as the authority which would receive “chief responsibility” for evaluations and preparation of the home front.

In May 2018, the “Mizrachi Committee” presented its recommendations. The Home Front Command was designated as the operative body for saving lives, while NEMA was given full responsibility for: preparing government offices for emergency situations; functional continuity of the economy; determining policy for the assessment and preparation of the home front; and acting on these policies in emergency situations.

The committee also determined that NEMA would be responsible for the strategy needed to implement these policies, and prioritizing between the IDF and civilian infrastructure in support of the war effort.

The Mizrachi Committee recommended that the Home Front Command prepare and operate the infrastructure of the civilian economy in regional councils and with local authorities. That recommendation was accepted by Liberman.

However, the letter submitted to the chief of staff said, “The process which the Defense Ministry requests isn’t legal, and contradicts the order of government and law, and the military establishment does not need to engage in the civilian economy.”

In the letter, Tzuk-Ram said the head of the IDF’s Logistical Division told him there was no direction or planning procedure by which the IDF can assist the civilian authority in wartime.

“Is the IDF the one that needs to engage in these issues during wartime?” Tzuk-Ram wrote. “In my professional opinion, no! According to the definition of the defense minister, the Home Front Command’s objective is saving lives, and NEMA is responsible for the preparation and operation of government offices, as support in the continuity of the functioning of the economy. NEMA establishes the public policies for assessment and preparation of the civilian establishment and sets priorities, including those of the Home Front Command.”

A similar letter was submitted to Attorney-General Maj.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit. Sources in the defense establishment have claimed that details of the matter have been sent to the state comptroller.

Brick – who is familiar with the fundamental dispute over the legislation, and issues of authority and responsibility between NEMA and the IDF – said, “If the chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi sets up a fundamental and professional discussion on the subject, he’d understand after a minute that he isn’t prepared to be responsible for this.”

Brick added that the defense establishment will wait for election results to see who is appointed public security minister, and whether a decision will be made to transfer responsibility of NEMA and the Home Front Command to that person from the Defense Ministry and the IDF.

An IDF spokesperson said, “The subject is being discussed by the former defense minister and has not yet come to the chief of staff’s desk. And like another series of issues related to the implementation of the work plan of 2019, [it] will be discussed soon.”  

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