Home front 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
One of the main conclusions reached following the Second Lebanon War was that the home front is one of Israel's many so-called military fronts. There is the northern front, where the IDF faces Hizbullah and Syria; the southern front with Gaza and Egypt; the eastern front with the West Bank and Jordan. Now there is also the home front.
When the missiles began raining down on northern Israel, it became clear to the IDF top brass that the war - which turned out to be Israel's longest - could not go on forever. There was a limit to how long people could be expected to remain in bomb shelters and away from their homes in cities of refuge in central and southern Israel.
Hizbullah recognized Israel's primary weakness, and Syria is now doing the same. While problems were discovered during the war in the performance of Israeli infantry and armored troops, overall, in almost all the battles, the IDF emerged victorious. The Achilles heel, if we can call it that, was the handling of the home front. Hizbullah discovered it, and Syria - with its recent unprecedented procurement of weapons and production of rockets and missiles - is adopting it.
So while State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert revived their long-standing strife with the release of the report on the state's handling of the home front before and during last summer's war, this is no time for political contests.
The time is for repairing and preparing, since the next war could be just around the corner. If the various government ministries, together with the IDF and the Prime Minister's Office, don't get their act together quickly, the bomb shelters in Safed, Karmiel, Hatzor and Haifa won't look any different next year than they did last year.
So what needs to be done? The list is endless, but most importantly the IDF and the government need to stand by their declaration that the home front is considered another military front.
If the IAF receives hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the most advanced fighter jet to bomb enemy launchers that fire the missiles, the Home Front Command (HFC) needs to receive similar funding to prepare Israel's homes and institutions for those same missiles which, no matter how good the air force is, will land in Israel.
The declarations are nice and sometimes reassuring, but they need to be translated into desperately needed dollar signs. A top-ranking IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post this week that billions of shekels are still needed to adequately prepare the home front. Hundreds of millions are still needed for the IDF to complete the important project of collecting and renewing our gas masks; hundreds of additional millions are needed to repair and build new bomb shelters.
There is also a need to finally establish the National Emergency Administration OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon has been talking about since he took up his post almost three years ago. The administration's job will be to coordinate among all the various emergency services - HFC, police, Magen David Adom and the Fire and Rescue Service - and prepare them and operate them during a war.
There is no real obstacle facing the administration's establishment. One of the last stumbling blocks - an argument between the Internal Security Ministry and the Defense Ministry over who will be in charge - was resolved several months ago when Olmert's cabinet decided that the latter was responsible for the home front.
With Iran racing toward nuclear power, Syria preparing for war and Hizbullah back to its former strength, time is only running out.