The Home Front as a Battlefront

The 15th Caesarea Economic Policy Planning Forum, June 2007

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  • Cover Type: Softcover | Hebrew
  • Number Of Pages: 92 Pages
  • Center: Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society
  • Price: 45 NIS

This book, prepared for the 15th Caesarea Economic Policy Planning Forum in 2007, explores the economic aspects of the transformation of the Israeli home front into a battleground. What is the state's responsibility to its citizens in such a situation, and what tools are the tools at its disposal to ensure national resilience?

As years and wars pass, the nature of battles between Israel and its enemies has changed. An increased use of missiles and rockets alongside suicide attacks has transformed the Israeli home front into a battlefield. How should Israel prepare for its next war, and how should it deal with its new reality? What is the state's responsibility to its citizens in such a situation, and what tools are the tools at its disposal to ensure national resilience? This book, prepared for the 15th Caesarea Economic Policy Planning Forum in 2007, explores economic aspects of this question.

The economic aspects of the transformation of the home front into a key battleground in the conflict between Israel and its enemies.
The Second Lebanon War marked a peak in the confrontations being waged on the home front. The civilian sector has always suffered attacks but it is obvious that from the Gulf War through the second intifada in 2000–2004 to the latest war in Lebanon, Israel’s home front has become a major—and in some cases, the only—battleground. An additional change in recent years has been the continuous nature of the confrontations and their shifting intensity.

This situation, in which the home front is in constant danger and absorbs multiple attacks, requires a different approach and fresh thinking across a broad range of policy realms, including: the way the system for tending to the home front in routine and emergency situations is organized; revising of the IDF’s combat doctrine; preparing and drilling of civilians on the psychological, mental, and practical levels; and changing budgetary priorities in general and the defense budget in particular.

Confrontations on the home front have many economic consequences, most of which also affect the state budget and the way it is allocated. These include the direct and indirect costs of the confrontations, the need for a special home-front budget in the “civilian” ministries, establishment of a level of economic activity in emergencies, and defintion of the confrontation line.

The central topic addressed by the team is the creeping “privatization” of security on the home front (that is, the shifting of security responsibility from the government to civilians). The civilian nature of the confrontations and the lack of a proper response on the part of the government are forcing civilians whose safety is threatened to increase their expenditures for personal security. This phenomenon has the following undesirable consequences for the economy, state, and society of Israel:

  • The most basic obligation of the state, to ensure the security of its citizens irrespective of their financial ability, is impaired.
  • National security is a public good, and therefore—for reasons of economic efficiency—the government must ensure that it is provided. Leaving it to the private market is liable to cause an inefficient allocation of security resources.
  • A level of security that is dependent on the financial ability of individuals is liable to exacerbate existing social gaps and cause them to take on existential significance. Moreover, the worsening of the disparities, and the lack of security due to an inability to pay for it, cause severe damage to Israel’s national resilience.
  • Dependence on private resources to finance security leads to intervention by donors and non-profit associations that come to the aid of residents. These parties act without a clear policy, and at times, in contravention of the government’s stated policy.

In order to minimize as much as possible the “civilianization” of security on the home front, the research team recommends the following steps:

  1. Defining a level of security that would enable residents to maintain a reasonable way of life in the long term, with similar chances of survival in all regions of the country, both as a declaration of intent on the part of the government and as a tool for determining the necessary security measures for putting this definition into practice.
  2. Measuring private expenditure versus government expenditure on home-front security, as a tool for examining citizens’ needs and the disparities between different populations regarding their level of security.
  3. Examining all aspects of security on the home front, while distinguishing between areas of government authority that would not be shifted to civilians, and activities of a technical nature, for which the desired level of governmental involvement would be determined.
  4. Establishing an effective system of supervision, particularly regarding activities to be carried out by extra-governmental agencies or in cases of a “captive” or vulnerable target population.

The second issue addressed by the team is the definition of the confrontation line and outlying localities. Localities included in this definition are eligible for a broad range of aid programs and economic benefits. This definition—which was formulated at a time when most confrontations were waged on the front lines and localities near the border suffered from a relatively high level of danger—does not provide a suitable response for a situation in which localities situated far from the border are also subject to ongoing threats and multiple attacks.

The fact that this definition is incompatible with present-day reality leads to political and media pressures to include particular localities within the definition of confrontation-line communities. The response to this problem has consisted of temporary solutions that are not based on clear and equal criteria. In practice, a situation is created whereby localities that deserve assistance do not receive it, and vice versa. This phenomenon leads to inefficient allocation of budgets and jeopardizes the local and national economies.

In order to achieve the necessary compatibility between the definition and the realization of its objectives in the existing reality, the research team recommends the following:

  1. Removing the condition of geographical distance from the border.
  2. Establishing clear eligibility criteria for inclusion in the definition.
  3. Creating a permanent mechanism that will update the list of eligible localities at set intervals.

To replace the condition of geographical distance, the team proposes three alternatives:

  1. Referring solely to the component of damage (after the fact).
  2. Creating and regularly updating a list of relevant localities.
  3. Creating a dynamic map of confrontation regions, on several levels.

The team proposes that differential damage in specific economic sectors also be taken into account.

With regard to the necessary organizational changes, the team reiterates the need for a coordinating body that would assume responsibility for the home front and calls for its immediate establishment. The proper course of action would be to place responsibility on the local municipalities to respond in emergency situations and empower them to do so.

Combining the resources of the central government with the abilities of local government can ensure an optimal response from the standpoint of the residents. Toward this end, it is first necessary to verify the economic and administrative ability of local municipalities to meet this goal, and provide additional resources to those municipalities that may have difficulty implementing it.

To summarize, we cannot ignore the fact that in recent years the home front has become a significant battleground, and we must consider the economic price being paid by both civilians and the state as a result. It is incumbent upon the leadership to ensure that the burden is distributed in a just and desirable manner, and to see to it that the state fulfills its obligations to provide security to its citizens so as to lessen the effect of economic disparities on the strength and security of Israeli society.