Israel’s security cabinet is set to meet next week in the wake of this week’s series of minor earthquakes to discuss reinforcing structures in the north. Officials from the Finance Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office are expected to present the plan to protect residents in the north not only from tremors but also from Hezbollah attacks at a cost of 5 billion shekels ($1.4 billion).
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced a plan his ministry had developed for protecting the north at the Herzliya Conference in May.
The cabinet was to discuss this plan two weeks ago, but the treasury asked to postpone the debate in order to upgrade the plan to include the threat of earthquakes. Doing so significantly raises the cost of the plan. Treasury and Home Front Command officials met over the past two months to determine how the plan would be budgeted.
While the missile threat and the earthquake threat are different, they both require engineering to reinforce structures, especially building residential secure spaces. Both threats require an early warning system giving residents sufficient time to reach shelter. The main difference between the two threats is geography. While the communities along the northern border are top priority for protecting against threats from Syria and Lebanon, the first communities that need reinforcement against earthquakes run along the Syrian-African Rift.
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The head of the Home Front Command met last week with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon over the funding of the plan. The funds will be disbursed over a five-year period and will not come from the security budget. The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee met in January to discuss the preparedness of the north for a confrontation. The head of the Home Front Command’s Physical Protection Division, Col. Golan Wach, presented data to the committing indicating that 27 percent of Israeli citizens lack proper shelter – be it a residential secure space, a private or public shelter or mass protection – that is suitable for a long-term stay. In older cities like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva, some 40 percent of residents lack proper shelter.
Within nine kilometers of the northern border, around 24 percent of residents of Jewish communities and 42 percent of residents of Arab communities have no proper shelter. The relative rates drop slightly up to 20 kilometers from the border to 21 percent and 38 percent, respectively, and stands at 35 percent and 41 percent, respectively, in the range up to 40 kilometers from the border.