(May 23, 2018 / JNS) The Israeli home front remains unprepared for the large-scale threat posed by Hezbollah’s mammoth and expanding arsenal of projectiles, a former senior military commander has warned.
Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Eyal Eizenberg, the former commanding officer of the IDF Home Front Command, addressed the “Fire and Maneuverability in a Complex Environment” conference on May 15 in Tel Aviv, and delivered a sobering assessment on the state of readiness regarding Israel’s soft underbelly: the civilian world.
“Are we ready? No,” he said. “I say, in an unequivocal manner, that we do not understand the significance of the threat. The threat is growing exponentially. As I am speaking now, Hezbollah has 100,000 heavy rockets; that number will grow to 120,000 rockets,” he cautioned.
During past conflicts with Hamas, when Israeli cities came under rocket fire, civilians continued with their daily routine under the protection of active air defenses. But this scenario would not repeat itself in a war with Hezbollah and its arsenal, he said, when the quantity of incoming projectiles would be far larger, meaning that air defenses will only provide partial protection.
“Sitting in a cafe is resilience … but today, the deal is different,” said Eizenberg. “During ‘Operation Protective Edge’ [in 2014], more than 4,000 rockets were fired at Israel, including at Gush Dan [greater Tel Aviv and central Israel]. The only other time that Gush Dan was challenged with rockets was during the 1991 Gulf War,” he added.
Eizenberg called attention to the fact that while Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers sit in armored vehicles able to withstand projectile fire, civilians in towns and cities throughout the Jewish state are more exposed to enemy fire. “Civilians are under threat. They are the main target,” he said.
Israel’s enemies have chosen to strike the home front as a means to influence the government’s decisions. “Their goal is to leverage the leadership via the population,” stated Eizenberg. “Successful strikes on the home front would cripple the nation’s ability to prevail in conflict.”
In addition, enemies like Hezbollah are developing their ability to target the IDF’s military sites within Israel, as part of an effort to harm Israel’s ability to achieve a decisive victory.
Responding to the challenge
During his speech, Eizenberg mentioned that in 2006, Israel updated its national-security doctrine, adding “civil defense” to the three traditional pillars of “deterrence, strategic alert and decisive victory.”
Now, he said, the time has come d to adapt “civil defense” to modern challenges. Adaptions include the need to build up Israel’s military power in a way that is balanced between offense and defense. In addition, he called for building a “system-wide” response to rocket and missile threats, though did not go into further detail.
Ultimately, the goal is to create an organized plan that will deliver set responses to such threats, he argued.
“Unfortunately, because of power struggles among various bodies in the home front, each side is pulling the blanket to cover its [own] feet, and in the end, the civilians do not receive the response they need,” said the former senior commander.
Yet this challenge is surmountable, and Israel can create national resilience during wartime—an ability Eizenberg defined being a part of “our ability to win.”
Improving alerts and building safe rooms
Meanwhile, a representative of the IDF Home Front Command, Golan Vach, who heads the rocket reinforcement department, told the Knesset’s Finance Committee on May 21 that some 150,000 homes are without protection in northern Israel.
“All in all, our civilian evacuation approach is organized and set up. Regarding alerts, every civilian receives an alert,” he said. Civilians living close to the border, however, need to hear an alert of 15 to 20 seconds before a rocket falls in the area, Vach told the committee, explaining that additional funds are required for this to happen.
Almost all schools in the Golan Heights have received rocket reinforcement structural protection, he added.
Yet some 100,000 homes at a distance of 20 to 40 kilometers from northern borders still have no private rocket-proof safe rooms.
The Home Front Command is seeking 425 million shekels of state funding to construct safe rooms for homes within four kilometers of the northern borders as a first step, said Vach.
“Beyond that,” he said, “we have set recommendations in line with [civilians’] socio-economic situation.”