Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, replacing Matan Vilnai as the home front defense minister on Sunday, said his new mission was to find and fix the weaknesses in Israel’s defense that could put Israeli lives and property at risk.
The outgoing minister, in welcoming his replacement, said “there was still much work” to be done.
Dichter, a former Kadima MK, said Israel’s enemies were developing weapons with capabilities that could be a strategic threat to the Jewish state. Israel faced threats from all directions, including Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, he said, noting that Iran wasn’t only a strategic threat but an existential one.
“This country has proved to itself, its enemies and the world that the days that Israelis were killed for being Jewish were over,” Dichter said. Active defense systems and attack options “guarantee [Israel’s] home front doesn’t turn into the front.”
The newly appointed minister noted, however, that Israel is not hermetically sealed. His ministry would be tested by “how it prepared to limit loss of life and property,” Dichter said.
The past five years have been full of drastic change in Israel’s readiness for war, Vilnai said as he handed over the portfolio to Dichter. “Avi, much work awaits you,” the outgoing minister said.
Vilnai, who was set to become Israel’s ambassador to China, said he was happy Dichter was the person chosen to replace him. The two “have a long history that can’t be discussed in front of the cameras,” Vilnai said.
Dichter was sworn in by the Knesset on Thursday, after being approved by a large margin — 41 in favor versus 26 against. The newly appointed minister will also be joining the inner security cabinet, increasing the number of members in it from eight to nine.
The octet was reportedly split 50-50 between those in favor of a strike on Iran and those against . Dichter’s inclusion could provide the tie-breaking vote, should the issue arise.