Israel's Infrastructure Is Hanging by a Thread

It's the Israeli mentality that says 'everything will be okay,' which negates planning ahead or preparing for crises, and views improvisation as the solution to every problem.

One of the ongoing arguments from people opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank is the fear that terrorists there will be able to fire ground-to-air missiles to bring down passenger planes at Ben-Gurion International Airport. An added concern is that, even if such a disaster does not actually happen, anxiety over it would be enough to paralyze air traffic in and out of Israel.

Last Thursday it became apparent that there is no need for a nearby border and advanced weaponry - and perhaps not even an enemy- to shut down air traffic. It is enough for a viscous liquid to contaminate the jet fuel without which planes cannot take off and fly. Proud Israel, blessed with economic growth and high-tech industries, was revealed as a one-pipe state. And when that pipeline gets stopped up, so does the country.

The more computerized the country becomes, the more dependent it is on the bottleneck of essential infrastructure; it is easy to upset its equilibrium by sabotage or mishap. Added to the risk factors is also the Israeli mentality that says "everything will be okay," which negates planning ahead or preparing for crises, and views improvisation as the solution to every problem. The result is that Israel's infrastructure, whether social or part of the transportation network, hangs weakly by a thread. They are ostensibly sound, until a challenge reveals their fragility.

The fuel mishap is one of a series of crises that in recent years have uncovered the weakness of civilian society in Israel: The collapse of the home front in the north under barrages of rockets during the Second Lebanon War; the fire in the Carmel Forest that revealed the failings of the fire department; and Israel Railways' series of accidents and mistakes that disrupted services.

This time there were portends of contamination in the pipelines. Tests were even carried out, but the warning did not reach the point of proper preparedness to prevent the interruption of air traffic. Only after hours of delays and the cancellation of dozens of flights was an improvised solution found: Supplying fuel from Israel Air Force tanks, which allowed planes to take off once again from Ben-Gurion.

The solution lies not in appointing another committee of inquiry. Rather, it is in working to replace the attitude of complacence with a culture that fosters preparedness of our national infrastructure.