Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan, speaking at a conference today (Monday) shared some projections of what a future conflict in Lebanon would bring to the home front in Israel's heartland.
"In the 2nd Lebanon war, 70 tons of explosive warheads hit Israel. Let's estimate the next war will bring four times that and round up. So we're talking about 300 tons per month. That's equal to what our Air Force drops in five hours."
However, Golan argued, the challenge was not insurmountable. "Don't you think we can withstand this? Do we not have a national sense of fortitude?". He also offered statistics that brighten the picture somewhat, "Of all the rockets fired up till now, only 4% have hit in built up areas, and only 1% have hit buildings directly."
Golan was speaking at a conference organized by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), marking the 10-year anniversary of the 2nd Lebanon war. NEMA was created in the wake of the aforementioned war to better coordinate military and civilian action during states of war or national disaster. Attendees at the conference include Amir Peretz, who was Defense Minister during the 2nd Lebanon war, the head of NEMA, the head of the Home Front Command, and other Defence and Emergency Response officials.
According to Golan, "We're the country best equipped to deal with this kind of emergency. I look at the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area. How many rockets will land there? Several dozens. We can handle that. The Home Front Command has prepared directives for all relevant government bodies, and we just need to make sure that everyone is doing their job and ensuring preparedness. Israel has a peerless early warning system that lets civilians know exactly what to do."
Regarding preparations for dealing with the threat from Hezbollah, Golan said some populations may need to be evacuated from areas adjacent to the border, but made sure to note that he is "opposed in principal to evacuations, despite the fact that some small scale evacuations may be necessary."
Golan summarized, "The IDF knows that the best defense is offense, the removal of the threat. We need to make sure to strengthen the home front, but make sure to remember that wars are won by accomplishing offensive objectives. We've had worse times in our history. Our situation is anything but catastrophic, no one has stopped fighting, and we need to keep our heads. The last war in Lebanon saw the deaths of 42 civilians and I certainly don't dismiss this. It's been difficult, and things will get more difficult, but there is no doubt we have the ability to handle the situation."
Amir Peretz, who served as Defense Minister during the war, also spoke at the conference and warned of the inadequacy of the rocket and bomb shelter infrastructure in the North, saying "It's not good, to put it mildly, and we can't put it on the inhabitants of the North to solve it themselves."
Regarding the lead-up to the war, Peretz said: "Our policy of containment created a perception on the Hezbollah side that we were frozen, and they took full advantage."
Responding to recurring accusations that the IDF wasn't operationally or logistically prepared for the war, Peretz demurred, saying: "I was Defense Minister for two months when the war started. I could have shifted responsibility for the results on to others, but I didn't."
Expressing pride in the war's accomplishments, Peretz remarked that Israel had enjoyed "10 years of quiet on the northern front. Children don't know what a Katyusha is and farmers can work in peace. I commend all who were a part of that military campaign and accomplished such wonderful things."
Reflecting the conduct of the war itself, Peretz highlighted the constraints of the pre-Iron-Dome era. "I had to pay attention to what was going on in our offensive operations at Bint Jbeil and elsewhere and to the Home Front situation in Haifa, all at the same time. The Iron Dome isn't only an effective military tool, it also gives command the ability to make decisions more calmly. Without it there are far more questions; to evacuate of not to evacuate? I am not a big fan of evacuations but sometimes it may be absolutely necessary as an executive decision and then that opens up the entire matter of where to put all the people who've left their homes."
Peretz also addressed today's agreement with Turkey, expressing the belief that "this agreement is important. I sympathize with the families of the MIAs, and if it was promised to them that any agreement would include the return of the bodies--that's a grave issue."
Yona Yahav, the Mayor of Haifa, spoke at the conference about public bomb shelters, calling them "death traps," and lamenting the fact that "12 out of the 14 dead in Haifa were hit on their way from their houses to the shelter. The state must fund the building of more reinforced rooms in private apartments."