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Defense, Home Front Ministries Stepping on Each Other's Toes

Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan demands control of IDF Home Front Command in continued fallout from snow devastation.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 12/25/2013, 3:55 PM

Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan
Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan
Flash 90

Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud-Beytenu) is demanding that he be put in charge of the IDF's Home Front Command and that the authority be taken away from the Ministry of Defense.

A joint committee of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee and the Committee for the Interior held a special session Wednesday to examine the government ministries' preparedness for emergency situations, following the snowstorm that struck Israel 10 days ago.

Erdan said that the prime minister has given instructions that place responsibility for what he called “the first axis” – Magen David Adom emergency services and firefighters – on the Minister for Public Security. “The second axis is the civilian one, which monitors the preparedness of the different elements required during emergencies and the contact with local authorities. This axis is under the Home Front Ministry.”

Erdan said that while every ministry needs to prepare for times of emergency in its sector, the Home Front Ministry was established in order to coordinate these preparations and make sure they are carried out in time.

"In the present situation, the supreme authority regarding the home front rests with the Defense Minister, in practice,” he explained. “On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that in an event that is not a snowstorm but a large scale security event ,the Minister of Defense will have the presence of mind to deal with what is going on in the home front. His responsibility is supposed to be in stopping the missiles from falling on the home front – not the question of where to distribute water or heating ovens. That is why it is better to give the Home Front Ministry responsibility for the Home Front Command and thus allow the ministry to be an operational one.”

MK Eli Yishai (Shas), who chaired the session, said that “There is no doubt that there is a problem in the field of defining authority between the relevant government offices – the Ministry for Homeland Security, the Ministry of Public Security and the Defense Ministry. The fact that this has not been solved causes us to be less prepared and less synchronized in times of emergency.”

MK Yishai said that the prime minister needs to reach a decision in the matter soon, “otherwise we will find ourselves less prepared and the citizens will pay the entire price. If the right decision is not reached regarding division of responsibility and authority, this could lead to a catastrophe in a time of emergency. It is very easy to dump responsibility only on the local authority and to cut its budget at the same time. Even the ministries and the various ministers do not know who is responsible for what in an emergency.”

"This mess must be stopped,” said Yishai, who intends to propose a private bill for defining the division of authority between the ministries in time of emergency, if the government does not adopt the joint committee's recommendations.

Interior Committee Chairwoman, MK Miri Regev (Likud-Beytenu), who co-chairs the joint committee, said that the Minister of Defense should only be in charge of the military front. “There has to be a very clear separation between the military and civilian. It can't remain only under the Minister of Defense's purview. When there is responsibility, there must also be authority.”

"At present, the Minister for the Home Front, regardless of who he is, bears only responsibility and has no authority,” she determined.