Comptroller says budget gaps leave settlements, border towns vulnerable to attacks

In annual report, Matanyahu Englman faults government for wide range of failings, including lack of preparedness for hospital cyberattacks and safety issues at construction sites

A security guard patrols the fence around the West Bank settlement of Efrat on April 8, 2022. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)
A security guard patrols the fence around the West Bank settlement of Efrat on April 8, 2022. (Gershon Elinson/FLASH90)

In its annual report released on Tuesday, the State Comptroller’s Office slammed a wide range of government bodies and decisions for shortcomings including insufficient funding to ensure the security of citizens living in West Bank settlements and near the Green Line.

According to State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, a budget shortfall has led to a lack of security fences, security lighting and other necessary facilities for the approximately 900,000 citizens living in or near the West Bank. Infrastructure for communication between local authorities and the army is also lacking, according to the report, and could “delay the response of security forces in the event of an infiltration into a settlement and harm coordination, in a manner that could threaten lives.”

This, Englman wrote, was despite that region being “the most-threatened area” and there being “recognized gaps” in necessary security measures. The IDF Home Front Command approved NIS 54 million ($16 million) to address these gaps in northern settlements, but only NIS 34 million was budgeted in practice, the report noted.

The wide-ranging annual report also takes the government to task for a insufficient cyber defenses in the health sector, the dangers facing construction workers, the egg industry’s high prices and poor standards, steps taken by prosecutors in closing criminal cases, and a wide range of other issues.

When it comes to cybercrime, Englman wrote that Israel’s health system is uniquely vulnerable to cyberattacks that could endanger lives. The report pointed to a cyberattack in October against Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera that shut down its computers for several days.

Englman said that, despite a rash of warnings, the Health Ministry has yet to complete its guidelines for medical institutions in case of such an attack and has not provided them with any instructions. He also noted that six years have passed since the government created the National Cyber Directorate and tasked it with protecting national institutions, but such responsibilities and authorities have yet to be delineated.

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman speaks during a Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group in Jerusalem, on February 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The report also faulted prosecutors for the manner in which criminal investigations are closed. Each year, Englman wrote, approximately 21,000 criminal cases are shut down without a full investigation and without informing those involved.

Of cases that are closed, 30-40% are shut without the complainant or the suspect being informed, preventing them from being able to appeal the decision or the reason for the case’s closure.

The comptroller noted that despite the price of eggs — which are considered a basic necessity — being regulated by the state, the cost to the consumer is 41% higher compared to OECD nations and 72% higher than in the United States.

Englman also noted that 32 construction workers died in Israel in both 2020 and 2021 — a rate of 11 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to 5 per 100,000 in the European Union. He criticized the Labor Department’s Safety and Occupational Health Administration department for not properly overseeing safety concerns, not correctly collecting information and for not having a branch designated to deal with criminal investigations, despite past recommendations.

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