Israeli Minister Gilad Erdan: “Israel is Iran’s Main Target”

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“Israel is Iran’s main target, and we won’t wait until the knife is at our throat before we cry out,” said Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan this morning. He spoke at the opening of the INSS (Institute for National Security Studies) convention on emergency national logistics, organized in cooperation with the iHLS website team.

Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan speaking at the convention
Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan speaking at the convention

Minister Erdan opened his address with the Iranian issue, which, according to him, affects Israel’s national security: “I was amazed when I heard the American Secretary of State criticize our Prime Minister for not hiding his objections until the agreement was finalized. That didn’t make any sense. I also don’t understand why the west is so eager to even reach an agreement. It’s not hard to notice the smiles of Rouhani and the Iranians as they reach an agreement with the west so easily, removing sanctions which cost them billions of dollars.” Erdan warned that any intermediary agreement may become permanent, while the Iranian uranium enrichment program keeps advancing, bringing Iran closer to nuclear power. According to him “it encourages a nuclear arms race and destabilizes the entire Middle East.”

On the issues discussed in the convention, Erdan said that “there’s still no complete, national policy on defending the civilian home front. 30% of Israelis still have no shelters, and that’s while all conflict scenarios feature thousands of rockets and missiles launched during a three or four-week period, on many cities and towns throughout Israel.” The minister added that “the IDF is acquiring missile defense systems and trains in their use, but in a prolonged conflict, after the IDF has used all its systems, Israel will still suffer missile attacks and the army will need the home front to be strong.” Emergency logistics include transportation of resources, communications, inventories and storage, personnel and security. “The military system knows how to handle all that, but on the home front the situation is more complex. In the army the commander gives a command his people follow it. Show me an army commander that can command a mayor, a cabinet minister or a power station manager.” Minister Erdan recommends establishing an special entity that will be responsible for all these systems, operating them during emergencies so that the national systems can keep working continuously.

Erdan added that “although we don’t have a total emergency home front preparedness policy, the goals are clear and there’s a continuing cooperation with the National Security Council and the Defense Ministry. When the civilian home front is the one most threatened we need someone to decide how to fill any gaps. We have to shape a new national policy which will emphasize the importance of the home front in any future conflicts.”

The INSS convention guests
The INSS convention guests

Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin, Head of the INSS, presented in his opening remarks the three main strategic challenges facing Israel:

  • Security policies are based on future conflicts being short, fast and clearly decided. That’s because the IDF is based on reserve forces and prolonged drafts disrupt the national economy.
  • “A deeper understanding that although we mostly deal with core operational systems, they all depend on supporting logistical systems.”
  • The blurred lines between battlefields and the home front. “Today it’s clear that all areas are threatened. Infrastructures, transportation, energy, communications – all these will be part of the conflict and enemies will target everything.”

iHLS – Israel Homeland Security

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According to Yadlin the issue of authority and areas of responsibility isn’t made clear enough – who is authorized to coordinate, issue commands, determine strategy and take responsibility later. We have to ask if the current logistics policy can meet the security needs, and how do we coordinate between the military and civilian systems.

Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak, head of IDF Technology and Logistics, said that there have been changes in the army’s concept of operations. The IDF has to ensure the existence of the state, but today it faces a range of threats that were unheard of in the past: Conventional weapons used on civilians, cyber threats, psychological and legal warfare, and more. “Conflicts have to be decided and won quickly, and we have to defend the home front in addition to national borders.”

INSS convention display. The event was organized in cooperation with iHLS.
INSS convention display. The event was organized in cooperation with iHLS.

Maj. Gen. Barak went into detail on trends of enemy activity: Long range, precision fire; destroying infrastructure, enlistment centers and transportation routes; psychological warfare; and long range engagements in several combat arenas simultaneously. “Most of Israel is threatened by precision rocket and missile fire, and by the ability to fire a large number of missiles at once. There could be little wars, and we expect various threats to the logistics chain, cyber attacks and attacks on the Israeli economy. During future conflicts the entire state of Israel will be targeted.”

Barak then went over the various aspects of logistics: Supplies, ammunition, food, medicine, transportation, engineering, construction – logistics is all these combined. The IDF has billions of shekel’s worth of ammunition and replacement components for planes, tanks and ships, and a threat to their supply procedures during war can delay fighting, delay reserves enlistment and damage power stations (which are today spread throughout the country). The main threat is harm coming to this chain of logistics.

“In order to counter this threat there needs to be a top level national decision-making body, which will control the entire supply chain. Today the police and the IDF are responsible for that, but during emergencies we will need, for example, the Electric Corporation’s assistance, and someone will have to decide where to cut power and where not to cut. We will need the assistance of food factories, we will make use of national fuel reserves, we will draft vehicles and engineering equipment. We will have to coordinate all this from a protected national control center.”

Brig. Gen. (Res.) Meir Elran, top INSS researcher, explained that “the enemy understands that it can’t fight the IDF, and that Israel’s weak point is its civilians. The IDF is an organized body, while the civilian system is crippled and spread thin.”

Elran suggests a sort of affirmative action: “The civilians have to change, they never do things properly. We weren’t hit yet, so the necessary actions to be taken are still not in the public’s awareness.” He said that the combination of guided missiles and cyber attacks is a direct threat to the country’s infrastructures, and so a balance between the military and civilian worlds is needed. “The cyber threat is larger than the threat of the enemy armed forces”, warned Elran, “and the threat of non-state organizations also has to be taken seriously.”

“Another dimension is thinking about the day after. If we unfortunately fail to deter the enemy, it got through and the defense systems fell, then what? What will happen to civilian casualties, national infrastructures? How do we get back to normal operation as soon as possible? I think not enough was done in the civilian systems to resume normal functions after what we refer to as “disturbances”, acts of war.”