Massive fire proves Israel can’t afford war with Iran

Aluiff Benn – Haaretz December 3, 2010

The enormous blaze that broke out on the Carmel will be remembered as the Yom Kippur War of the Fire and Rescue Service, who were not prepared to counter a disaster of such magnitude.

Yesterday it turned out that Israel is not prepared for war or a mass terrorist strike that would cause many casualties in the home front. The warning of the outgoing Military Intelligence Chief, Amos Yadlin, that the next war will be a lot more difficult than past experiences, and that Tel Aviv will be a front line, was not translated into the necessary preparation by the authorities assigned the protection of the civilians.

Under such circumstances, it is best for Israel not to embark on war against Iran, which will involve thousands of missiles being fired on the home front.

After the Second Lebanon War, which exposed how pathetic the civil defense system was, reports were written, exercises were held, but everything broke down under the stress of a real emergency on the Carmel range − an area that already experienced the trauma of Hezbollah missiles.

Yesterday Israel asked for help from Cyprus and Greece, and the air force traveled to France to bring fire retardants to make up for the material that had run out. In war time, it is doubtful whether Israel will be able to rely on the generosity and largess of its neighbors.

Responsibility for the home front is currently divided among three ministries: the Home Front Command and the National Emergency Authority, who are answerable to the Defense Ministry; the police, which is part of the Ministry of Public Security; and the Fire and Rescue Command, which belongs to the Interior Ministry.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who is responsible for the firemen and the head of the Fire and Rescue Services, Shimon Romah, were nowhere to be found yesterday. They are obvious candidates for losing their jobs as a result of the disaster.

Each ministry has its own bureaucratic dynamic, and ability to raise funds for equipment and human resources. The firemen are at the bottom of the pile, and have for years struggled to get more resources.

A year ago the firemen went on strike and warned that the system is far from being able to provide for defending the population. According to the firemen’s association, the international standards require one fireman for every 1,000 citizens, and in Israel the ratio is nearly one in 10,000. Over and over the firemen warned that they can’t shoulder the responsibility they are given.

Funding authorized several weeks ago was meant to head-off criticism in a State Comptroller report on the state of the fire departments.

In similar circumstance in the past, organizations that were found lacking were later bolstered with enormous resources. This is what happened to Military Intelligence and the air force following their failures during the Yom Kippur War. This will probably also happen to the Fire and Rescue Services.

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