The ongoing dispute between Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan continued on Wednesday, with Ya’alon publicly slamming the Home Front Defense Ministry as “a waste of public money.”
In his first public comments on the ongoing spat, Ya’alon said during a conference held by the Defense Ministry, “The Ministry of Home Front Defense is a waste of public money and nothing good will come out of it.”
Conflicts between Erdan and Ya’alon began last summer with the Defense Ministry’s refusal to transfer various matters pertaining to civilian defense to the Home Front Defense Ministry’s auspices, including the authority to set policy on bomb shelters.
The spat continued this week when Erdan turned to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to intervene after the Defense Ministry failed to transfer 220 million shekels of the Home Front Defense Ministry’s budget.
"Regarding the argument about home front defense and the Home Front Command, I'm not avoiding responsibility," Ya’alon said on Wednesday. "The responsibility is mine. Across the board. We can’t split the issue and establish a Ministry to give orders to the Home Front Command, and the Chief of Staff will give orders to the Home Front Command, and I will give them orders. I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
Instead of having a separate ministry for issues related to home front defense, argued Ya’alon, the responsibilities should be given to a deputy minister within the Ministry of Defense, as has been the case in the past.
"Once you start to split the responsibilities because of political considerations, and certainly if you start to build a Ministry with a CEO, with an independent legal capacity, an independent budget etc, it is a waste of public money,” he said.
"We saw it in the snowstorm. Who functioned? Bezalel Treiber (head of a department in the Defense Ministry), Dan Harel (the Director-General of the Defense Ministry) and other people in the Ministry. The entire IDF was behind it ," continued Ya’alon.
Responding to Ya’alon’s verbal attack, the Home Front Defense Ministry said in a statement, “The Ministry was established at the initiative of the Prime Minister, who based his decision on the state comptroller's report and on recommendations of many experts who recommended the establishment of a body that will deal exclusively with the civilian front in preparing for emergencies, and will integrate the search and rescue forces during special situations.”
The statement continued, "Unfortunately, due to the Defense Ministry's refusal to part with budgets and manpower designated for the civilian home front, the Ministry for Home Front Defense remains unable to fulfill its duties. It is good to see that the Defense Ministry, which has a budget of some 60 billion shekels, is interested in ‘public funds’. Had the Defense Ministry invested a fraction of its budget in implementing and exercising its powers, it could have brought a solution for the problem of providing protection to Israeli schools.”
"However, the Ministry of Defense for years chose to neglect these issues and therefore we are forced to deal with gaps in the preparedness for emergencies,” the Home Front Defense Ministry said. “Whoever thinks that when thousands of rockets fall on Israeli cities the defense minister and chief of staff will be able to engage in helping citizens and managing distribution of water, heating, equipment and providing shelters instead of engaging in defeating the enemy - is making a bad mistake and may repeat the mistakes of the past.”
The Home Front Defense Ministry was created in 2011 when then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak split the Labor party and formed the Atzmaut (Independence) party. The first Home Front Defense Minister was Matan Vilnai, who was replaced by Avi Dichter after being appointed as Israel’s ambassador to China. Erdan was appointed to the position after last year’s elections.
Many view the Home Front Defense Ministry as a redundant ministry that was only created for political purposes and which does not serve a true purpose.