No one is telling the home front the plain truth
The state adopted an unusual policy since the early 1990s, requiring every new home constructed in Israel to include a reinforced room.
"A person's home is his castle," and this is also the case for its protection, or at least, this has been the official government stance over the years. Thus the state adopted an unusual policy since the early 1990s, requiring every new home constructed in Israel to include a reinforced room.
In hindsight, this was obviously a particularly successful policy decision, but one that left the question unanswered of what to do with about a million homes constructed in Israel before that time, and which remain unprotected.
The state's answer, as noted, is that each citizen must take steps to protect their own home. A bomb shelter in the basement of an apartment building is a jointly owned area, and therefore apartment building residents must maintain it. Public bomb shelters, located in areas where apartment buildings were constructed even before the era of basement bomb shelters, belong to the municipality, and so the municipality must prepare them for use.
At most, the state has assisted apartment and house owners by alleviating the process of the planning stage of a reinforced room at home, and waived real estate taxes.
This attitude, according to which every person in the state of Israel is responsible for himself and his property, has gone bankrupt over the past two years. The Second Lebanon War caught hundreds of bomb shelters unprepared in the north, as neither residents nor local authorities - particularly in cases of poor local authorities with meager management capabilities in the first place - accepted responsibility to maintain the shelters in good order.
The problem quickly landed at the doorstep of the state, with the pronouncement that the state had abandoned its citizens in failing to arrange for appropriate shelters.
The state has not learned to deal with this pronouncement. The message that private property of citizens must be cared for by its owners, even if the property involves a jointly owned bomb shelter or a protected room in a private home, simply wasn't received. Last week the government finally surrendered, when it announced that it would construct protected rooms in 3,500 homes at the cost of NIS 350 million (NIS 100,000 per room) at the expense of the state.
Thus, the die has been cast. Private property has become the de facto responsibility of the state when it comes to protection of homes. The state will no longer be able to shake off this responsibility in other cities and other regions, after having accepted responsibility in Sderot.
The state may be able to bear the cost of NIS 100,000 per room, if it's a case of 3,500 homes, but what will happen when the need arises to provide protection for a million unprotected residential units in Israel?
Practically, the state is about to invest nearly NIS 1 billion in reinforcing homes in the communities surrounding Gaza. Add to this the half-billion shekels cost of reinforcing schools. In other words, NIS 1.5 billion invested in protecting communities surrounding Gaza, even without providing shelter in other public places which are not educational institutions.
The area surrounding Gaza means the area that lies within seven kilometers of the border. When that perimeter is increased to 15 km, within the range of improved Kassams and certainly Grad rockets, the cost of offering protection jumps to a new level.
Based on the costs involved in the area surrounding Gaza, extension of protection to the second perimeter, which includes Ashkelon, involves an investment of another NIS 4 billion to NIS 5 billion. What will happen when Grads reach Ashdod, Kiryat Gat or maybe Beersheva?
"A number of decisions have been reached over the past few weeks regarding to the protection of Asheklon," an IDF spokesman told TheMarker. One, he said, is the renovation of bomb shelters in Ashkelon at a cost of NIS 3 million. Second is the reinforcement of windows in Ashkelon schools, costing NIS 1 million. These are the amounts allocated by the government of Israel for the protection of Ashkelon, and this in the midst of rocket fire on the city.
This negligible amount speaks for itself. No one really intends to reinforce the city of Ashkelon, because no one really things it's possible - or even advisable. It's not possible because the amounts involved are beyond imagination.
And it's not advisable because total protection relays a very bad message to Hamas or the Hizbollah - a message that is only likely to encourage them to increase rocket attacks on Israel. It's also not advisable because these same enormous sums could be invested in other defense-related projects, which are considered far more promising in terms of the protection they offer the population of Israel.
Some of these sums are invested in advanced warning systems to improve the red alarm warning. A substantial amount is invested in an attempt to develop a system to shoot down rockets, including short range ones. And there are also sums being invested to protect against far more substantial threats against the home front, such as biological and chemical warfare.
Protection is nearly at the bottom of budgetary priorities for defending Israel's home front, and the state has been dragged against its will into providing protection of Sderot homes or minimal repair of bomb shelters in Ashkelon. Except that while Israel's budgetary policy is anti-protection, it's declared policy is not.
Ministers and the heads of the defense establishment stutter when they are asked about it. No one dares to stand up and tell the home front: reinforcement of homes is not a realistic option. Dealing with attacks on the home front involves completely different tools than reinforcement of homes.