Home front defense czar Erdan threatens to resign ministry

Home front defense czar Erdan threatens to resign ministry

Minister says work undermined by lack of clear policy, poorly defined areas of authority and delayed budget

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan threatened on Monday to resign from his post unless his ministry is given clearly defined authorities and the budget to enact them by the end of January.

“If by the end of the month some clear decisions are not made on this issue, I will not be able to continue to serve as head of the ministry,” Erdan told Army Radio. “The ministry does not have the means and the capability to carry out its job.”

The budget of the Home Front Defense Ministry is derived from the Defense Ministry’s budget, but Erdan’s office has yet to receive funds for 2014 from the latter, he said.

The comments underlined ongoing problems of jurisdiction over the task of home front defense, torn between various ministries and organizations. The IDF, the police, the Defense Ministry, the Public Security Ministry, the Home Front Defense Ministry and local municipalities all have a part in assisting the civilian population during times of crisis, but with no clearly defined distribution of authority or structured hierarchy among them.

The ministry’s former director-general Gabi Ophir resigned in June of last year, citing the office’s lack of clear policy.

The issue came to the fore in late December, after a snowstorm pummeled Israel, but emergency efforts leapfrogged the Home Front Defense Ministry for the police and IDF.

In July State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, in the latest of a series of reports about the perilously incoherent chain of command over the home front, detailed some of the major issues in need of a legislative solution.

In his July report, he noted that both the army and the police are enabled by law to assert control over Magen David Adom ambulances and fire-fighting crews. The authority is granted by two separate laws and it is not clear which is subservient to the other. In a time of national emergency, he wrote, rescue crews could well receive contradictory orders.

The same is true of the IDF Home Front Command itself, which answers both to the chief of the staff, on military affairs, and to the defense minister, as stated in the Civilian Defense Law of 1951. If the two contradict one another, the chief of the staff could conceivably find himself in command not only of a war on the front lines but also, by law, of the entire civilian sector.

Finally, despite the creation of the Home Front Defense Ministry in January 2011, there is still no single organization that heads all matters of civilian safety in a time of emergency.

Mitch Ginsburg and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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