Top Israeli Minister Calls to Increase Protection of Cities Amid Fears of Confrontation With Iran

According to Home Front Defense Minister Vilnai, the main problem remains safeguards for private homes and essential infrastructures, as well as available strategic reserves of fuel and electricity.

Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai is today expected to call for increased investment to protect Israel's cities and national infrastructure. Vilnai presents his annual report on the Home Front's preparedness for emergencies to the cabinet amid reports from the United States that Israel plans to strike Iran before June.

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Home Front Command drill
Alon Ron

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said the cabinet level discussion about the Home Front is a routine affair that was scheduled a long time ago and has taken place annually since the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. Aides of the Home Front minister also insisted that there is no direct connection between the rising tensions with Iran and the timing of the meeting.

The Home Front will take center stage in the event of a clash between Israel and Iran, since the assessment is that Iran will respond to any Israeli strike with a barrage of missiles that will target Israeli cities. According to this assessment, Iran will rally Hezbollah in the north and Islamic Jihad in the south to join in on the attack, which will result in thousands of missiles targeting Israeli cities and strategic installations.

Vilnai, who previously served as deputy defense minister, was made Home Front Minister after leaving Labor for Ehud Barak's new party, Atzmaut. During a cabinet meeting last January, during which the new ministerial appointments were approved, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that a "specialized ministry would be set up to deal with the Home Front."

A year passed without any development and the ministry is still not established, lacks budget and there are neither positions nor defined authorities for the Home Front Ministry.

According to the annual Home Front report, during 2011 preparedness was raised from "low" to "medium." This means that in spite the improvement in readiness, there are still many gaps in the abilities of the Home Front to function under a missile strike or even in natural emergencies like an earthquake or a large-scale blaze.

The main problem remains the safeguards for private homes and essential infrastructures. In apartment buildings and homes built in the past 20 years, protected reinforced rooms exist. But in thousands of older structures, such protection is lacking. Moreover, strategic infrastructures are insufficiently protected for emergencies.

Another issue is the available strategic reserves of fuel and electricity. Until recent years the basic assumption was that power plants and the refineries would not be damaged during a war. However, the rise in the numbers of missiles in enemy arsenals capable of precision strikes has led to a reevaluation of this assumption, and the conclusion is that these installations will not function.