Israel is dangerously underprepared for rocket or missile attacks, a new government report contends.
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira took the government to task for failing to secure several strategic sites, despite having been warned as early as 2004 that the sites are at risk.
Dozens of military and civilian buildings remain vulnerable in the event of a rocket strike. In some cases, a strike could cause a chemical spill or similar disaster that would put thousands of lives in danger.
While the government has created a task force to discuss how to protect strategic sites, “this has not yet led to action,” Shapira noted.
Most of the report will remain secret to protect classified information.
It is widely assumed the ammonia reservoir in Haifa, for example, is among the strategic sites on the list. Experts say a direct strike on the reservoir could kill as many as 17,000 people. Plans to move the reservoir out of Haifa – Israel’s third-largest city – were postponed recently to 2018.
Control over protection of the strategic sites was returned to the defense ministry, and taken away from Home Front Defense in a years-long power struggle between the two.
The defense establishment was nevertheless blasted by the state comptroller for its inadequate defense of the sites.
Shapira pointed out that his was not the first report to underscore the problem: The state comptroller’s report in 2010 had also emphasized the importance of correcting the lack of protection for strategic sites.
“There has been hardly any real progress to respond to this threat. Even attempts to protect some of the sensitive civilian sites listed have gone unfinished.”
By November 2013 the “most sensitive” sites were also for the most part unprotected, Shapira noted – that, despite personal intervention by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in March 2012.
Part of the problem lay in the fight between the defense and home front command ministers over power and funding. At the close of the report in November 2013, little progress on the issue had been made.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon won the power struggle, leaving Gilad Erdan to lick his wounds with the disbanding of Home Front Defense Ministry in June 2014. By September 2014, in a final roundup, Shapira noted there was significant progress with the “short list” of most sensitive sites, but still nothing done with the others. He urged the defense ministry to “act rapidly” in light of “existing and expected threats.”
One point emphasized in the report was the lack of readiness of the reserves prior to Operation Protective Edge this summer. Shapira focused on insufficient training and full training exercises, which compromised readiness. There was insufficient supervision over this area, he said, in both IDF and civilian leadership. This conveyed a misleading image of readiness that proved dangerous for all.
The report also cited the failure by the air defense industry to meet targets for developing certain aircraft. Tens of millions of dollars were lost in that investment, the comptroller charged, public funds that drained other areas in Israeli society.
Insufficient investment in manufacturing infrastructure for national military industries was another area criticized in the report as well.
Stung, both the IDF and defense ministry responded to the report by pointing out that they had provided the best training and readiness they could offer. Both had repeatedly warned the cabinet that the promised budget – trimmed to the edge as it was – had not materialized.
The IDF and defense capabilities could not be maintained under proposed budget cuts by the Finance Ministry, they reminded, and had done the best they could with what they were given.