Israel to Divvy Up Responsibility for Home Front, Following Squabble Between Ministers

Gilad Erdan, home front defense minister, wants authority over shelters and gas masks taken from Defense Ministry.

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Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan will try to work out a compromise over the next few days to divide up responsibilities for defending the home front.

Sources say Erdan has told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he plans to resign if his ministry is not allotted more responsibilities, though Erdan’s associates say no such threat has been made.

Netanyahu held two meetings in a week on the issue, without making a decision. Erdan is expected to benefit from a compromise that would increase his responsibilities. Defense Ministry officials said Tuesday that Erdan and Ya’alon are maintaining “open channels of discussion” and that a compromise is indeed expected.

Erdan’s demands are opposed by many defense officials, including the head of Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg.

Erdan wants to be responsible for the major components of protecting the home front such as supervision of advance warning systems, the distribution of gas masks and the construction of shelters. He also wants his ministry to oversee the functioning of local authorities in areas of civil Erdan says the home front lacks a political mentor who will obtain funding and change legislation - processes the defense minister does not have time for.

Eisenberg, however, says Erdan’s demands, especially the supervision of local authorities, could be disastrous during a war. Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz support Eisenberg.

A third proposal will reportedly be rejected: to shift the responsibility for Home Front Command to the Public Security Ministry.

The dispute over the division of responsibilities has sparked tumultuous discussions at the subcommittee for home front affairs, headed by MK Eli Yishai (Shas). The subcommittee is part of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

A former defense minister, MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima), told Haaretz he thought the proposal was a bad one. The proposal was drafted by the National Security Council, which intended to expand the authority of Home Front Defense Ministry and Public Security Ministry.

According to Mofaz, “ Home Front Command was constructed layer by layer over the course of 20 years. Gradually, improved responses were developed to counter threats facing Israel’s home front. Dividing up responsibilities among different ministries will undermine the quality of services. Gilad Erdan is a capable minister, but the responsibilities for the Home Front should not be split up just to suit the needs of one minister.”

A search and rescue drill conducted by the IDF's Home Front Command, May 2013. Credit: Gil Eliahu

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