Saturday, April 20, 2013
Who's responsible for protecting Israelis in an emergency?
Amir was sent to represent the Home Front Command at the conference after the participation of Col. Sigal Tadhar, the head of the Home Front Command's civilian population branch, was cancelled. He was apparently prohibited from explicitly badmouthing the reform to avoid a public confrontation with Col. (res) Ben-Ari from the military advocate general's office. As the legal advisor in the Prime Minister's Office under Yitzhak Rabin, in the Energy and Water Resources Ministry under Ariel Sharon and in the Tel Aviv Municipality under Mayor Ron Huldai, Ben-Ari probably understands the issue of civil defense better than any other lawyer in public service.
Reform is seen as necessary because the law currently gives the Home Front Command, IDF and Israel Police different roles in civil defense depending on the circumstances. In some cases, the police lead and the army – including the Home Front Command – assists, while in others, it is the opposite. When settlers must be evacuated, the army gives the police the honor, but when the home front is attacked while the country is at war, the army wants to take charge. IDF commanders find it unthinkable that they would take orders from police officers; while police district commanders resent the idea of answering to the commander of the home front, who is two ranks below them.
Home Front Command officers feel the situation is simple: Like all soldiers, the head of the Home Front Command answers only to the chief of staff. No minister, including the defense minister, can give him orders.
This may sound logical, but it is incorrect. The civil defense law clearly distinguishes between the IDF and the Home Front Command (actually referring to its predecessor the Haga civil defense program). The head of the Home Front Command is appointed and supervised by the defense minister after a recommendation from the chief of staff. While officers and other soldiers can serve in the Home Front Command, it is not meant to be part of the army. Like the police and the Shin Bet and Mossad security services, it is a parallel organization.
Eran has a political edge on Interior Minister Aharonovitz, but he will first have to overcome the collective resistance of Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Benny Gantz and Home Front Command head Eyal Eisenberg. Plus, the chairman of Aharonovitz's Yisrael Beiteinu party could yet get involved. In the end, Netanyahu will make the call, probably based on who ends up at the top of the heap.