The Israel Defense Forces' Home Front Command should be abolished once the alert prompted by the war in Iraq has ended, Air Force Commander Major General Dan Halutz recommended this week.
Halutz believes that, once the threat of a chemical or biological attack by Iraq has been eradicated, the civil defense mechanisms that were in place before the 1991 Gulf War would be sufficient to cope with similar threats from Syria or any other state.
Before the Home Front Command was established, civil defense was handled by a chief civil defense officer operating out of the General Staff's Operations Directorate.
An authorized defense source predicts that if the American forces in western Iraq keep up their current pace of operations, it will be possible to declare the region clean of missiles - and thereby end the state of alert - in about a week. During their first week of operations, the American special forces in western Iraq managed to search more than half of the sites from which Iraq could potentially launch missiles at Israel.
Halutz's proposal on abolishing the Home Front Command was included in a document that he circulated this week among various senior defense officials, including IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon and the military secretaries of both Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.
The document, which is one of the most important restructuring proposals currently under consideration by the defense establishment, details Halutz's approach to the new strategic and budgetary environment created by America's war on Saddam Hussein and the government's decision to reduce defense spending.
Mofaz's media advisor, Eli Kamir, says Mofaz is now studying Halutz's proposal, along with others, before making a final decision on how to restructure the defense establishment in light of these developments.
Halutz believes the security situation will improve after the war with Iraq, but a strong army will still be needed to preempt future threats, which could include the collapse of regimes friendly to Israel. He rated terrorism as the greatest threat facing Israel in the next few years, with nonconventional weapons in second place; the Arab states' standing armies occupy third place on his threat list. He therefore believes now is a golden opportunity to make fundamental structural changes in the IDF.
Among other changes, Halutz favors scrapping a significant portion of the armored corps, which, according to foreign reports, currently numbers thousands of tanks. He also believes the navy should focus its efforts more on Israel's coastal waters.
In addition, Halutz thinks the IDF should invest in developing lighter, more mobile ground forces, whose main firepower would be aerial, and special forces. But in contrast to both the Finance Ministry's budget department and the Ground Forces Command - which, in light of America's war with Iraq, has advocated scrapping plans for weapons systems meant to contend with mobile missile launchers in distant regions - Halutz believes that such systems would make a valuable contribution to both the IDF and Israel's economy, even if the Americans destroy every missile launcher in Iraq.
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