Gaps in Israel’s Civilian Preparedness in Emergency

civilian preparedness

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The IDF has been gradually reflecting the concept that Israel’s next conflict will take place in two fronts: In the military front, the IDF forces will be operated in the defensive and mainly offensive spheres in order to achieve the swiftest victory. In the civilian front, the public will be called to produce a reasonable functioning sequence vis a vis the massive attacks on both population concentrations and critical infrastructure. The Home Front Command’s national exercise “Steadfastness” was held between March 11-15, 2018 as part of the IDF commands exercise. In a recent Insight series publication by INSS, Meir Elran and Karmit Padan raise doubts concerning the preparedness of the civilian front in emergency, and reflect several gaps in both the State and IDF levels, that should be taken into account in order to improve the insufficient preparedness of the civilian population for the next high-intensity conflict scenario, considered realistic.

The exercise dealt with the multi-front conflict, but the emphasis was on the combined Syrian-Lebanese northern front, and the threat posed by Hizballah was presented as the major threat regarding the civilian front. The exercise was presented as directed to advance the cooperation among the Home Front Command, the emergency and rescue agencies and the police and to improve the public’s readiness to war. However, the article claims that the extent of the information that the exercise directors chose to share with the population was, in fact, very poor.

In order to materialize the deterrence concept, Israel must present a reasonable functioning sequence, so the exercise allowed to examine the essence and quality of the dialogue between the civilian and military fronts and map the gaps existing in the Home Front Command. However, as result of the classified character of the event, the incorporation of civilians was very limited. The participation of civilian organizations such as government ministries, local authorities and social entities was also restricted. The article authors raise the question whether the information should have been classified in the first place. The same approach has been also reflected by the government and military directed and consistent policy to refrain from agitating the public regarding the evaluation of the extent of the developing threat. Will knowing the threats in advance enhance the public preparedness or rather it will act correctly even if surprised?

Another challenge reflected in the national home front exercise related to the cooperation and coordination among the systems of the State’s organizations in an emergency. The recent exercise did not demonstrate the complete array of possibilities of cooperation between the IDF, through the Home Front Command, and the civilian systems, including the National Emergency Authority. According to INSS article, this reflects a severe systemic failure. With the lack of legislation and regularization agreed upon by the various state organizations, particularly the National Emergency Authority and the Home Front Command, there is no leading actor responsible for the Israeli civilian front. Under the current circumstances, the result might be non-coherent functioning and a severe blow to the civilian front preparedness, especially in an extreme emergency scenario.