The defense minister wants to help 300 communities in northern Israel protect themselves in case of war, but funding for the project needs to be secured.
By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
It sounds good – even excellent. As reported by Army Radio Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has presented a comprehensive plan to protect hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in the part of the country threatened by Hezbollah, Syrian and even Iranian missiles. The only catch, however, is a big one: the budget for Liberman’s plan has yet to be allocated.
The plan, called “Shield of the North,” would not be small potatoes, as the cost is estimated at NIS 5 billion over five years. Municipalities are supposed to help build 200,000 private bomb shelters in people’s homes, and 550 public shelters, while 800 schools and kindergartens, 65 welfare institutions, and dozens of medical clinics’ protection will be seriously upgraded.
The plan’s beneficiaries are the 300 communities within 45 kilometers (about 28 miles) of the border with Syria and Lebanon.
Show me the money
So where will the money come from to pay for this? The Defense Minister’s office explained, “The plan for the protection of the north will be reviewed for approval of the Cabinet in June, and then they will have to find a budget source.”
According to Hadashot News, the budget is expected to come from a source outside the Defense Ministry. However, the Finance Ministry refused to comment, although it recently came up with funding to start addressing the problem, which has not been a secret. Two days ago its representative told the Knesset Finance Committee that NIS 150 million was budgeted this year for protecting the north.
The need for more protection is obvious, as Kiryat Shmonah Mayor Nissim Malka explained in an interview with Army Radio regarding existing conditions in his city. “The Ministry of Defense paid for 20 [out of 187] shelters to be readied for a long-term stay,” he said. “There are no private shelters in the older parts of town at all. If war broke out tomorrow morning, we could only protect citizens for the first few hours.”
When asked why the government has dragged its feet on this critical issue, he responded, “They told us all the time, ‘It’s quiet now in your area, we have to concentrate on the south [the area near the Gaza Strip].’ We’ve been talking about this for ten years.”