PM Hints Subway to Double as Mass Shelter?

IDF Radio says Netanyahu hinted that he wants future subway in largest city to serve as an emergency shelter.

Gil Ronen,

Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv
Israel news photo: S. Cohen

Did the Prime Minister hint, in a Cabinet meeting earlier this week, that he wants Tel Aviv's future subway stations to double as mass emergency shelters? If he did – IDF Radio seems to have had no compunctions about leaking and broadcasting the matter.

The military radio station's website reported Tuesday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to "meaningfully increase" the number of subway stations planned for Tel Aviv despite their high cost, "for an unclear reason."

When asked why he wanted the changes made, the Prime Minister answered with a Hebrew phrase that means, roughly, "Whoever needs to understand, will understand."

The exchange occurred during the Cabinet meetingm when Netanyahu "suddenly" asked Katz to give a concentrated review of the plans for the subway, according to which most of the tracks will be on the street level and above it. Netanyahu opposed this vigorously and requested that most of the stations be constructed underground, even though Katz explained that this would make them much more expensive.

IDF Radio said that "Those present at the session had difficulty understanding why Netanyahu decided to demand a much more costly project than planned." The Prime Minister "refused to give his reasons and started to demonstrate where the budget could be taken from."

In addition, "an initiative was raised, to turn many underground parking lots into mass emergency shelters, so the sources who were present at the session understood the statement as expressing Netanyahu's wish to advance the construction of the stations so that they could serve as additional public shelters in a possible missile attack."

The report itself raises at least two troubling questions: If indeed Netanyahu wants the subway to double as a mass shelter but does not want to say so outright – why was the matter raised in a forum that was not a top-secret one? Did IDF Radio submit the report to military censorship?

Another question is -- if the report is true, what kind of threat are the underground stations to guard against? Conventional missiles or unconventional ones?