by Andrew Friedman
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon agreed Thursday to allocate NIS 150 million to bolster home front security in northern Israel. The agreement to shore up bomb shelters and other civil defenses will require a sign-off from the Security Cabinet, which will begin deliberations on the matter next week.
The agreement follows media reports earlier in the week that the Security Cabinet has held “extremely significant meetings” in recent days about security in the northern region as the civil war in Syria winds down.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and other senior officials have stressed repeatedly in recent months that Israel would not reconcile itself to the presence of Iranian troops in Syria following the end of the conflict there, amidst fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to just such an arrangement.
In addition, security officials are increasingly worried about the potential of a cross-border offensive by Hezbollah from Lebanon. Last October, Liberman told troops during a Succot holiday reception that the next war in the north would “immediately become a two-front battle” with Lebanon and Syria.
The following month, Liberman accused the Ministry of Finance of stalling to fund implementation of a 2014 government decision to bolster civilian security in the north, and in December asked for a NIS 4.8 billion increase to the defense budget in order to address home front needs for a future conflict.
All of which augurs poorly for a region that was badly hit during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, a 34-day conflict during which the terror group fired more than 4,000 Katyusha rockets at Israel, almost all at civilian communities. Since then, Hezbollah has bolstered its stockpile of short- and mid-range missiles, with approximately 120,000 warheads with the ability to cover every part of Israel. That translates into one missile a minute for more than 83 consecutive days.
Hezbollah has sent thousands of troops to fight on behalf of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, gaining important battlefield experience in the process. Officials on both sides have said that another round of fighting is inevitable, and Hezbollah has warned that during the next conflict it would not suffice with firing rockets, but would rather attempt to attack and hold territory inside Israel.