The Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in cooperation with the Local Government Center, held a special conference on Monday on the subject of preparedness in local authorities for emergency situations. The conference was attended by mayors from across the country, including the Arab sector. The conference sought to learn from the experience of regional authorities who have experienced significant security events in their city, as well as to receive insights that will enable to improve the way the state will cope with future threats.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin referred at the beginning of the conference to the recent decision to establish the Ministry of Homefront Defense, saying that “even though there are those who argue that the decision to establish the Ministry was tainted by political considerations, I believe that it is a good thing that the state has decided to assign a Minister whose designation is to be responsible for the homefront during times of emergency.”
The Minister for Homefront Defense is MK Matan Vilnai of Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Atzmaut (Independence) party, which was established after Barak defected from the Labor party. Some have said that Vilnai’s position was created simply to provide him with a ministerial position.
MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), who chairs the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said during the conference, “The events in the Middle East have created a domino effect which affects the young people, including those residing in Judea and Samaria. Israel’s supreme interest in light of the events taking place in the region is to keep the peace with Egypt and Jordan. Despite the fact that the changes in the Middle East have started with younger people, ultimately, they have not seized power.”
Mofaz added: “I long for the day that the Iranian people oust their leadership. On the other hand I hope that the events do not also affect Jordan.”
Regarding the danger to the homefront itself, Mofaz said that “Israel’s population centers have become the front, and in the next war, missiles that will fall in city centers will create a paralyzing effect. The heads of the local authorities must be provided with the tools and powers so that they can function as area commanders. Although the state has decided to establish the Ministry of Homefront Defense, in fact all the powers that have to do with the homefront have been left in the hands of the Ministry of Defense.”
Also taking part in the conference was Major General Yair Golan, GOC Homefront Command, who said that “the duration of fighting in the next conflict will be longer, the number of missiles aimed at us will be significantly larger, the missile range has increased and there has been a significant improvement in the intensity of missiles. We have provided each mayor with the scenario that is expected to develop in their city, including the number of missiles expected to land in the city and the amount of time they would have from the minute of a warning alert until the fall of the missiles.”
Golan noted that “Today we not only train local leaders but we are also training every last worker in each local authority. We expect that a large part of the services citizens receive during times of emergency will be provided in public shelters.”