'Home front risks collapse in next war'

Home front risks collap

Sections of the home front could face collapse in the next war or natural disaster unless a civilian support network is created and trained to deal with emergencies, a new study warned this week. The study, published by the Reut Institute and the UJA Federation of New York City-funded Israel Trauma Coalition, has been sent to government ministries, Knesset committees and key figures in the defense establishment in recent weeks. It calls for sectors such as corporations, charities and local government to undergo training that would enable them to function and provide essential services to the public in the event of a national emergency. "Despite all of what has been done since 2007, the enormous investment of funds, personnel, exercises and budgets, and despite what we saw during Operation Cast Lead, Israel remains exposed to the danger of home front collapse in certain areas," said Gidi Grinstein, president and founder of the Reut Institute, which provides support to decision-makers in the public sector. "Today, if you examine what Hizbullah is building, it does not have pretensions of defeating the IDF, but rather is building up its ability to strike at the home front to create a balance," Grinstein added. A home front collapse could be characterized by public disorder, looting and "a total loss of trust by the public due to a dramatic gap between the state's resources on the one hand, and expectations by the public on the other," he said. "If we look at the conflicts that Israel can expect to face in the coming years, victory will be impossible without a functioning home front," Grinstein stressed. The Defense Ministry is guided by the concept of victory being achieved in military terms, he added, "while our report says victory will also be determined on the home front, and in the diplomatic and media arenas." As part of the civilian national emergency network, the report recommends that charities which provide vital services like food deliveries be identified and provided the means to continue working in a national emergency situation. Similarly, major corporations should be called upon to give back to their local communities by providing resources and employees to act as volunteers in time of national crisis. Local community centers would also play an important role in enabling city neighborhoods, towns and small communities to face situations like widespread missile attacks on the entire country. "Essentially, our research says that in a short amount of time, all these resources can be harnessed in order to increase our ability to respond," Grinstein said. In the coming months, the Reut Institute will work with corporations like banks and cellphone companies to ensure that they continue to provide services during critical periods. "If ATMs have no cash during emergencies, if stores become empty of goods, then the whole system could crash. In order for there to be national strength, each of these elements must go on functioning," he said. The institute is also planning a conference in January, in which a host of organizations will be urged to take part in emergency preparedness.