Claiming to be better prepared for a war today, the IDF Home Front Command (HFC) rejected the harsh criticism leveled at it by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss in a damning report on the state's preparations and handling of the home front ahead of and during the Second Lebanon War. In unprecedented harshness, Lindenstrauss accused the Home Front Command and its head, Maj.-Gen. Gershon (Geri) Yitzhak, of failing to effectively care for the home front during the 34-day war last summer with Hizbullah during which some 4,000 rockets and missiles rained down on northern Israel. Predictions in the IDF are that Yitzhak, who was also accused in the report of "not always [operating] within the framework of the law," will not resign from his post. On Monday, he met with Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and was told that he has the full support of the IDF.
PMO fires back at Lindenstrauss
Comptroller doesn't spare local authorities in report
JPost special: The Second Lebanon War
Responding to the criticism, a high-ranking HFC officer told The Jerusalem Post that all the IDF's actions in the home front during the war were aimed at saving lives and that in the future they would operate in the same way and with the same goal. In addition, he said that all the recommendations raised in the comptroller's report were already in the process of being implemented.
Lindenstrauss slammed Yitzhak for splitting responsibility over the home front with the head of the Israel Police's Northern District Cmdr. Dan Ronen during the war. The IDF officer rejected the accusation and said that the law was inadequate and that during a war "our main goal is to save lives." The officer said that the Home Front Command stood by its decision to adopt a new concept during the war - even if it was not fully based in law - according to which the police were responsible for arriving first at the scene of a missile strike and, afterwards, the HFC's Search-and-Rescue teams.
"The concept was correct," the top-ranking officer said. "The law is old and is missing sections that need to be updated. We already pointed this out a long time ago, way before the war." The officer said that most of the recommendations and conclusions raised in Lindenstrauss's report had already been made months ago by the internal IDF inquiry teams set up to probe the HFC's performance following the war.
Since the war, the HFC has established liaison officers for more than 180 local councils which serve as sensors for the IDF to recognize and take care of problems. In addition, all the HFC reserve and compulsory units have undergone training over the past year.
Yitzhak has for several years been calling for the establishment of a National Emergency Administration, one of Lindenstrauss's main recommendations, that will integrate all the existing emergency services - HFC, Police, Magen David Adom, Fire and Rescue Services - and will be responsible for preparing them and operating them at a time of war.
"Already before the war we noticed that there were major gaps between the level of readiness among emergency services and the level they needed to be at," the officer admitted.
Lindenstrauss also slammed the HFC for not properly mapping out the dire state of the bomb shelters in the North and of not preparing them for the possibility of war. In response, the officer said that the HFC was responsible for directing local authorities on how to build bomb shelters and for setting the requirements according to which they must be built. The actual care and maintenance of the shelters falls under the jurisdiction of the local or regional authority.
"People have to remember that the HFC is not responsible for everything when it comes to the home front," explained the officer. "There are other players involved, including the police, the government and the local authorities."
Pointing out the low number of homes that have attached bomb shelters or security rooms - only 32 percent - the officer said that more than NIS 50 billion was needed to bridge the gap. More realistically, he said, the government could allocate NIS 5 billion which is needed to fix and build public bomb shelters throughout the country.
Money is also needed to facilitate the completion of collecting and renewing the public's gas masks.â€¢