The Home Front

Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan is the recently appointed commander of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Home Front, replacing Yitzhak Gershon who stepped down following harsh criticism of his command’s performance during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Golan has his work cut out for him. For example, there’s the gas-mask situation. Just before the Second Gulf War (now called the War in Iraq) broke out in 2003, Israel’s Home Front Command distributed gas masks to all citizens and residents. In 2007 the army hired a contractor to collect them, claiming the masks are now ineffective. Now, with the on-and-off talk about war with Iran or Syria, Gen. Golan has to decide whether to order new gas masks or refurbish and return those just collected.

With Israelis in the north threatened by Hezbollah rockets (and Syrian missiles) and with IDF Intelligence warning that by now some 250,000 Israelis in the south will fall within range of enhanced, Hamas-launched Kassams, the need for improved bomb shelters is paramount.

Refurbishing thousands of shelters currently in deplorable condition needs to be high on Golan’s agenda. But where the budget for repairs is supposed to come from is anyone’s guess. Don’t look to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He’s been explicit: “This government is not taking action to shelter Israel up to the gills.”

Israel’s Home Front is worth some thought, especially for those who anticipate (or are urging) that Israel will attack Iranian nuclear targets. No one expects the Iranians to absorb such an assault with complacency. Conventional Iranian missiles (or those with chemical or bacteriological warheads) could come raining down on a population no better protected than were our citizens in the north during the hard summer of 2006.

Incidentally, not all Israelis will be unprotected. A cavernous underground complex is now being constructed—with access from the new government compound in Jerusalem—to shield Israel’s political leaders in the event of a nuclear attack. There are, it seems, some folks whom Ehud Olmert will protect “to the gills.”

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