MKs Write to PM: Home Front Ministry Is Dangerous Move

Letter argues that legal and technical obstacles obstruct the effective functioning of the ministry.

In a letter addressed to both the prime minister and the defense minister, seven members of the Knesset Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defense have warned that the establishment of the Ministry for Home Front Defense undermines the country's ability to deal with emergencies. The letter argues that legal and technical obstacles obstruct the effective functioning of the ministry.

The ministry, which was set up in January following the creation and induction into the coalition of Atzmaut, the faction that broke away from the Labor Party together with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is headed by Matan Vilnai. Vilnai was previously in charge of the home front as deputy defense minister. He also received the letter.

National Union MK Aryeh Eldad
Tess Scheflan

The letter, which was initiated by MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union ), warns that the ministry does not contribute to home front readiness and may actually undermine it. The MKs base their claims on conversations with Vilnai and with Maj. Gen. (res. ) Ze'ev Livneh, who heads a team that is evaluating the role and authority of the ministry.

The MKs also say that the new ministry lacks all authority or official responsibility vis-a-vis other ministries that contribute to home front preparedness and functions during an emergency. Moreover, they say that the Vilnai's authority as deputy defense minister significantly exceeded the authority he currently wields, and that the new ministry lacks funding beyond that needed to pay its employees.

"Leaving the executive bodies [of the Home Front] in the hands of the Defense Ministry is baseless," says the letter, since it is not possible to expect that these will follow orders from the Home Front Defense Ministry during an emergency.

The MKs quote Defense Ministry director general Udi Shani, who said that "an executive organ cannot have two commanders."

Their letter also notes point out the fact that more than 10 committees evaluated the situation of the home front over the past two decades, and that none of them recommended the establishment of an independent ministry. On the contrary, the recommendation was for the matter to be handled by the Defense Ministry or the Public Security Ministry.

MK Eldad told Haaretz that "Vilnai was given the honor of being minister, but in practice he was stripped of authority. He is convinced that in an emergency he will be able to make decisions through a special ministerial committee, but the situation is problematic and it may emerge at a particularly bad time."

Senior defense sources responded that the letter was politically motivated. "There are complex technical problems, but in a few weeks we will have overcome them. Establishing a ministry was the right solution. No defense minister has enough time or attention to deal with the problems of the Home Front," said a source.