Liber­man ac­cuses Fi­nance Min­istry of block­ing funds to buf­fer North from threats

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By ANNA AHRONHEIM

De­fense Min­is­ter Avig­dor Liber­man ac­cused the Fi­nance Min­istry on Tues­day of stalling the fund­ing of a 2014 gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion to in­crease pro­tec­tion for the home front, es­pe­cially north­ern com­mu­ni­ties.

“The for­ti­fi­ca­tion of the home front in the North is se­verely lack­ing com­pared to south­ern Is­rael, but in the South we also face many bud­getary dif­fi­cul­ties in erect­ing the new [se­cu­rity] bar­rier,” Liber­man said Tues­day dur­ing a meet­ing in Haifa with lo­cal of­fi­cials and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Home Front Com­mand, In­te­rior Min­istry, De­fense Min­istry and oth­ers.

“We are deal­ing with a mat­ter that is ‘net life,’” the de­fense min­is­ter said, urg­ing the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to de­mand that the gov­ern­ment im­ple­ment de­ci­sions taken in 2014 to al­lo­cate NIS 150 mil­lion an­nu­ally for 10 years to close the pro­tec­tion gaps through­out the coun­try.

“The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion, es­pe­cially in the North, must re­ceive sub­stan­tial re­in­force­ment on the is­sue of pro­tect­ing the home front,” he added.

Al­though Liber­man said the Home Front Com­mand and Na­tional Emer­gency Au­thor­ity, to­gether with may­ors and gov­ern­ment min­istries, have made “a ma­jor leap for­ward in emer­gency pre­pared­ness and in the field of pro­tec­tion,” he said the Fi­nance Min­istry has been stalling its fund­ing.

“For me, the most dis­ap­point­ing thing is that the gov­ern­ment is not im­ple­ment­ing de­ci­sions it has made. Since the de­ci­sion was made, the Fi­nance Min­istry has been tor­pe­do­ing its fund­ing for un­clear rea­sons de­spite the clear need to strengthen the North and de­spite the fact that de­tailed plans have been com­pleted,” he said.

The bor­der area with Le­banon has been flagged by the IDF as vul­ner­a­ble to en­emy in­fil­tra­tions and has seen nine in­fil­tra­tions since 2009, in­clud­ing one in April when a man was able to cross into Is­rael from Le­banon and walked to the Kiryat Sh­mona cen­tral bus sta­tion, about 10 kilo­me­ters from the bor­der fence.

The IDF be­lieves the next war with Hezbol­lah will see the ter­ror­ist group try to bring the fight to the home front by in­fil­trat­ing Is­raeli com­mu­ni­ties to in­flict sig­nif­i­cant civil­ian and mil­i­tary ca­su­al­ties.

The bor­der fence with Le­banon has been up­graded sev­eral times since it was orig­i­nally built in the 1980s, in­clud­ing in Oc­to­ber when a 29-kilo­me­ter stretch was up­graded with en­gi­neered bar­ri­ers, in­clud­ing sev­eral-feet-high re­in­forced con­crete pan­els, con­crete blocks and for­ti­fied watch­tow­ers. The IDF also has cre­ated ob­sta­cles such as a man-made cliff to help pre­vent at­tacks by Hezbol­lah.

Along with a new six-me­ter-high steel and barbed wire “smart fence” that stretches sev­eral kilo­me­ters with in­for­ma­tion col­lec­tion cen­ters and warn­ing sys­tems be­ing built along two stretches of the Le­banese bor­der, new for­ti­fied shel­ters, in­clud­ing bus stops, have been con­structed along the Le­banese and Syr­ian bor­ders.

(Baz Rat­ner/Reuters)

SE­NIOR IS­RAELIS warm up for a run­ning ses­sion in Tel Aviv in 2015.

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