Who Needs the Home Front Command?

Without Iraq, but still in light of the danger of missiles and rockets, biological and chemical, the Arrow's interception capabilities are needed, though not necessarily in the numbers planned in the past.

How many of the missiles - out of all the missiles that weren't found in Iraq after it was conquered - was Israel supposed to absorb during the American war to topple Saddam Hussein? Two to five, says Military Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash, in an interview in the October issue of Migdalor (The Lightpost), published by an NPO made up of veterans of Unit 8200 and its predecessors.

In an assessment he presented to the general staff in April, Ze'evi-Farkash reported that "missiles won't be fired in barrages, but as singles, and if they are fired it won't be more than one or two in Haifa, one to two in Tel Aviv and maybe one other somewhere else." In 1991, the area around the Dimona reactor was also attacked. Now Ze'evi's assessment may have specified five too many missiles, but his mistake was less expensive than that of Amos Gilad, Shaul Mofaz and the army, all of whom spoke of calling up tens of thousands of reservists to the Home Front Command.

Even if the Military Intelligence assessment had come true in full - Ze'evi calls it a scenario - Israel would have been hurt about the same as it has been in the last three years of various disasters. Every Scud equals a Dolphinarium, as one senior air force officer put it, meaning a serious loss but a lot less than the accumulated losses in the conflict with the Palestinians. And in this fighting, which the air force - through helicopters and planes - and the navy - through Shayetet 13 - want to take part in, to keep their major roles, the Home Front is completely missing, even as it devours budgets and reservist battalions for no reason at all.

Without Iraq, but still in light of the danger of missiles and rockets, biological and chemical, the Arrow's interception capabilities are needed, though not necessarily in the numbers planned in the past. The latest planning in the IDF anticipates a longer period of time to acquire the missiles. The interception is only one element in what is mostly an offensive system. Gen. Stanley Green, the commander of the American task force Cobra, which was stationed in Israel during the Iraqi war, said, after the war, that the Patriot batteries were meant as a backup for a lack of special forces teams - dozens of American and Australian teams - which numbered fewer than the targets on their lists in Western Iraq.

The Home Front, which was established as a result of the 1991 war with Iraq, is in the most part superfluous after the last war, and what does remain necessary should not be in the IDF, with its staffing requirements and their salaries. An old proposal to move it to the Ministry of Public Security, was updated last month as part of a plan handed in by a team headed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Ran Goren. The plan regards the Public Security Ministry as capable of bringing together the police, security and rescue departments, including the fire department (now divided between a national commissioner and local city control), and Magen David Adom. The patrol car, the fire engine and the ambulance will be parked beside the bulldozer of the Home Front Commission. The national counter-terror staff would be swallowed up in the new framework, "the National Authority for Security and Protection." A similar idea, proposed by the director general of the public security ministry, was accepted by the government but nothing was done to execute it.

The proposal separates foreign security - which is the IDF's job and the responsibility of the Defense Ministry - and domestic security - which includes public order, natural disasters, the emergency economy, the war on drugs (now based in the Prime Minister's Office). Presumably, the entire package - though not including the criminal investigations department, which would go to the Justice Ministry, along with any other extra frameworks - could be moved back into the Interior Ministry. The government would then have four powerful ministries - interior, defense, finance and justice - and not only defense and finance as today. There would be a social purpose to the organizational efficiency, as well as arranging an alternative national service to the IDF. The army would continue to be the main enlistment agency, but all those who aren't absorbed by it, including both Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox, would fulfill their national duty in a domestic civil framework.