Home Front commander deflects blame for war failures

OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Gershon: Putting more troops on the home front was not what would make civilians feel secure.

IDF troops 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
IDF troops 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Gershon rejected on Tuesday the state comptroller's allegations that he had not done enough to protect the home front during the Second Lebanon War, but added that putting more troops on the home front was not what would make civilians feel secure. Speaking to the Knesset State Control Committee, which is holding a series of discussions on the July 18 State Comptroller's Report on the home front, Gershon contended that Israelis' sense of security depended more on stopping attacks. "You can have tens of thousands of soldiers deployed along the home front," Gershon told the committee. "However, if an attack undermines the sense of security of the home front, [all those soldiers] will not make a difference. You can be there and play guitars and violins in the shelters - that is not what will guarantee Israel's stamina in war." But Gershon also said that then-chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz had refused to call up reserve soldiers, including those serving in the Home Front Command. He quoted Halutz as saying, "We've only been fighting for eight days. When we get to 21, we'll start thinking about a long campaign." At another point, Gershon told the committee that Halutz had said, "I want to avoid a massive call-up of reservists. Period." Gershon added that during General Staff meetings, Halutz would receive reports of "four soldiers killed, two soldiers killed, six soldiers killed. And here I was bothering him about the home front." Gershon added that he had foreseen the situation in the home front before the war and had brought it to the attention of various people. "The State Comptroller's Report held me fully responsible [for the problems that arose,]" he said. "I have strong disagreements with the report." In addition, Gershon said there were not enough soldiers serving in the Home Front Command and that he was not authorized to call them up for reserve duty. It was up to the chief of staff to do that, he stressed. Committee chairman Zevulun Orlev accused Gershon of keeping his head down and failing to take responsibility. "The Home Front Command decided to adopt a minimal interpretation of its duties," said Orlev. "That's the impression I get. The Home Front [Command] decided to rid itself of responsibility and hand it over to the police. The feeling of one million civilians in the North was that they were abandoned in the Second Lebanon War. The people were not looked after, and services were not properly provided." Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i said the underlying problem revealed during the war was that there was no overarching body responsible for the work of all those dealing with the home front. He said he intended to draft a law to correct this and other problems.