Panel: Gov't failed to protect Northerners [p. 3]

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government failed to adequately care for northern communities during the 34 days of rocket barrages, according to a report published Tuesday night by the Knesset's subcommittee on the preparedness of the home front. MK Ami Ayalon (Labor), who headed the investigation, said that the government would receive a failing grade for its treatment of northern communities. Of the six subcommittees established by the Foreign Affairs and Defense committee to investigate the war, Ayalon's was the first to release findings. Ayalon has repeatedly bashed the government's performance during the war and called for Defense Minister Amir Peretz to step down. Ayalon is also challenging Peretz for leadership of the Labor Party. According the to report, the government could have better cared for residents of the North by declaring a state of emergency, which would have activated several security measures. Those measures may have included the evacuation of hard-hit towns and financial compensation for businesses. The report also criticized the IDF's Home Front Command for failing to call up all of the reserves at its disposal. Ayalon added that the North remains vulnerable to rocket attacks and that serious changes must be made to secure communities there.