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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Comptroller's report on Home Front Command

Israel Radio is reporting on a special report issued by the State Comptroller on the IDF Home Front Command's performance in last summer's war. Two words: Gross Negligence.

More on this report later. Olmert's office claims that the Comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, has a personal vendetta against Olmert.

I hope someone in the government does!


While I listen to the special report on Israel Radio, here are some highlights from Haaretz.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, in a particularly harsh report on the state of the home front and its functioning prior to and during the Second Lebanon War, on Tuesday defined the Israeli authorities' handling as a "total lapse of reason."

In an unusual move, the report specifically named current and former senior officials, blaming them for severe failures in the handling of the home front in wartime.


The 582-page report is the most comprehensive ever published by the State Comptroller's Office, and apparently the harshest. The comptroller stated in the report that "Israel's administrations - the political and executive echelons - have not carried out their duties regarding the safeguarding of the home front for many years, and have failed to prepare a comprehensive and operative assessment for the conduct of the home front in the event of an emergency."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former defense minister Amir Peretz, former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz and commander of the IDF Home Front Command Yitzhak Gershon were all accused of severe failures in their respective decision making processes, assessments of the situation, and carrying out the various aspects of safeguarding the home front during the war.

The report blames the "captains of the state" for investing most of their energies in the fighting, and neglecting the home front which was "vulnerable to a large-scale attack since the first days of the war." The report added that these leaders failed to prepare most of the home front for a state of emergency.

"These are severe failures that have lasted for many years and have eroded the home front's ability to safeguard the civilian population during war."

The report says that when the war broke out, various professional bodies presented the government with assessments of the situation and estimates of the scope of the damage the war would incur.

These assessments included a detailed description of the home front's preparation for rocket and missile attacks. But, the report says, the government did not discuss these assessments until July 30, the 19th day of the war.

The assessments did not include preparation for significant issues such as the state of bomb shelters and protection of homes against missiles.


Lindenstrauss found severe failures in the conduct of the police during the war, which placed the lives of police sappers and Israeli citizens in danger. Though the police were responsible for the citizens in the home front, the organization had outdated information regarding the types of weapons Hezbollah may use.

In an unusual move, Israel Police took upon itself the responsibility of handling the home front when the war began. According to the law, this is something that falls under the control of the IDF's Home Front Command. Nevertheless, the government authorized the police to take over these duties.

The comptroller maintained in the report that the police "functioned well" and were highly motivated.

But he criticized the government ministers, including Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, for failing to check in advance whether or not the police were capable of carrying out these duties.


"Only several days after the beginning of the war, when the police had a critical need for highly classified information, did the military intelligence department organize a regulated channel through which specific information could be transferred to the police," the report reads.

The establishment of such a channel was initiated by the police's intelligence department, not the IDF, the comptroller adds.

It also emerged that the IDF attempted to exclude the police from use of an alert system designed to warn against rocket strikes before the Home Front Command's sirens go off.


The report blames most of the failure to protect against dangerous chemicals on the Home Front Command, saying it failed to inspect factories which handle dangerous chemicals, and was unable to enforce its instructions at such factories during the war.

The report also criticizes the fact that since the war ended last August, the Home Front Command has yet to complete the safeguarding of the 458 facilities containing significant amounts of dangerous chemicals.

According to the report, the Home Front Command presented to the government an overly optimistic assessment of the potential dangers posed by the possible spread of dangerous chemicals. The IDF assessment did not place emphasis on this danger despite the fact that most chemical storage facilities were unprotected against missile attacks.

The Home Front Command and the Environment Ministry, the report continues, gave conflicting instructions during the war regarding the breadth of the threat and the safety precautions that must be taken. These contradictions damaged both bodies' credibility, confused the owners of the chemicals and compelled some of them to threaten the state with lawsuits.


The comptroller stated that the IDF began to safeguard the factories only nine days after the war had begun.


The report determines that "the programs for evacuating civilians were not sufficient to handle the wide range of scenarios" occurring in the north during the war, and that "a number of the facilities intended for the absorption of evacuees were located in areas subject to IDF or Hezbollah bombardment, and a number were not available at all."

According to the comptroller's office, during the first week of the war, the majority of evacuees should have been able to entrust their evacuation to local authorities, under an official evacuation plan prepared ahead of time.

Nonetheless, after the war broke out, official plans to evacuate civilians were not carried out and the government did not make decisions on the matter of evacuation.
Two quick comments. First, the government attempted to minimize the Home Front from the outset, because admitting how problematic the home front was underlines the foolishness of (current Defense Minister) Ehud Barach's flight from Lebanon in particular and 'unilateral withdrawals' (like what the government did in Gaza and wants to do in Judea and Samaria) in general.

Second, this is just a prelude to the Winograd Report. I can't wait....


At 4:13 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Second, this is just a prelude to the Winograd Report. I can't wait....

Me either. Hopefully, the combination of the two will give a knockout punch to Olmert's piss-poor administration.

I'm not sure that any likely replacement will be any better, but it sure can't be worse!


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