In the IDF's backyard
The near absolute collapse of public services, charged with serving the civilian population in the North, had no impact on the government authorities. No commission of inquiry was set up to examine these authorities, and they have not been asked to account for their performance.
In the backyard of the Israel Defense Forces - the civilian rear of the state of Israel - business continues as usual: the senior officials and the local mayors continue in their posts, nonchalantly, as if there had been no second Lebanon war. This not-so-small group proved utterly incompetent during the war, and in some of the cases abandoned its responsibilities. Yet it remains in charge of providing the North with essential services, as if nothing happened in July-August 2006. On Friday, the IDF completed its in-house investigations on its wartime performance. Meanwhile, the civil authorities continue to operate much as they did five months ago.
One can disagree with how the IDF investigates itself, but there is no doubt that since the end of the war, its commanding officers have been under pressure to improve their performance. This has not been the case on the home front: The near absolute collapse of public services, charged with serving the civilian population in the North, had no impact on the government authorities. No commission of inquiry was set up to examine these authorities, and they have not been asked to account for their performance.
The only one who considers this matter his business is State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss (the Winograd Committee will deal with this issue indirectly, if at all). Lindenstrauss has assigned 50 staff members to examine the performance of the ministries during the war, particularly the defense, public security, transportation and welfare ministries and the local authorities in the North.
Lindenstrauss' working assumption is that the failings that emerged in the North exist throughout the country. It is based on previous reports examining the IDF's emergency stores, the quality of bomb shelters and other matters. The problem is that the comptroller's report on the subject is expected to be published only in four months' time. In the meanwhile, nothing has changed at the authorities in question.
Moreover, even though what the comptroller is exposing is no less serious than what the army investigators discovered, his work lacks urgency. He does not intend to issue an interim report, propose solutions or label the guilty parties. The comptroller says he does not operate like a commission of inquiry. His intention is exposing the problematic nature of the current approach to defending the home front, and to leave it to the government and the public to reach the necessary conclusions.
This is a restrained approach, which is a little surprising considering Lindenstrauss' opinionated nature and past behavior. Therefore, there is room to challenge it: An immediate, energetic and sharp response is necessary precisely in areas pertaining to people's daily lives. People were in charge of the disgraceful way the state dealt with the Northern residents' suffering; senior officials at the Prime Minister's Office were in charge of the decision not to put national emergency procedures into effect; ministers, regional officials and mayors were in charge of the shameful way in which services were provided to the abandoned population; the government vacuum was filled by volunteers and philanthropic organizations, even though this should have been the responsibility of paid government employees.
The work of the state comptroller and his report - which is expected to highlight basic weaknesses and recommend that the idee fixe, that the home front requires no broad, technologically advanced protection because the IDF is powerful enough to protect it, should be abandoned - are important in and of themselves. However, they fail to offer solutions for the near future: We must prepare for likely threats (like missile strikes by Syria or Hezbollah) by the time the comptroller's structural recommendations are implemented. To this end, the failures that emerged in the recent war should be urgently presented, and the responsible civil servants and elected officials must answer for them.