In the first week of August 2013, Israel's Ministry of Defense, the IDF and the newly formed Ministry of Home Front Defense* disclosed data regarding the country's preparedness to various types of attacks, especially chemical warfare.
A chemical duel between Syria and Israel is possible in the near future; according to the disclosed data, Bashar al-Assad has a rare opportunity to smile.
The published threat levels refer to three categories, namely chemical, biological and radiological (nuclear and dirty bombs). According to the reports:
One of the problems while reading data published by the Israeli Government is the constant changes in the acronyms used. Following the data presented in the table above, another report was released stating the NEBEK readiness of the various relevant parameters.
It cost expensive time—it could have been used to prepare for the obviously imminent nuclear attack—to find that NEBEK is the Hebrew acronym for "non-conventional weapons," perfectly showing why what is called the "Explanations Plan" rates low in preparedness. The inconsistent approach and the unending string of non-necessary linguistic manipulations create a strong feeling of "they are tricking me." Which eventually proved to be the case.
The overall rating of Israeli preparedness was "low to average." Some of the reported parameters were averagely bizarre:
Plan to Foil Non-Conventional Terror
Crisis Management National Level
Most of the categories are rather irrelevant. The fact that Israel hides a Propaganda Plan as an "Explanations Plan" (Tohnit Hasbara) is amusing but of little interest. Goebbels would have understood the reasons for camouflaging this plan. The key issue is the Plan to Foil Non-Conventional Terror, which is the lowest rated item. Behind it hides the core topics, the access of the population to gas masks and the announcement system.
"Can I get a gas mask that doesn't filter flowers?"
Military organizations dislike dealing with civilians; the latter tend to have unacceptable demands and lack a properly ordered organization. Thus, it is not surprising that the Ministry of Defense has never achieved a proper level of preparation with the gas masks. Since chemical warfare is the most probable scenario for a non-conventional war in the area, this is a disaster.
The picture opening this article was not randomly chosen. It shows one of the problems faced by the military. There are no gas masks allowing beards. For religious reasons many men wouldn't shave; they are doomed. There are also distribution problems and maintenance costs.
In 2008, the State Comptroller checked the Home Front Command and among other issues found that only 38% of the stored masks were good. In 2012, the Home Front Command published a report showing that only 58% of the population has gas masks; the projected number for the end of 2013 is 60%. Reading the rest is almost superfluous. The first guess is true: Palestinian-Israelis and Ultra-Orthodox Jews are the main segments denied protection by the State.
A related issue is the relatively new SMS alert system. The State is supposed to alert of a non-conventional attack using text-messaging capabilities of cellular phones. Following a failed test in 2009, Netanyahu announced that in "7 days the system would be fixed." The reports released now show that the system is still faulty, mainly due to licensing issues of some companies. Moreover, only 30% of the population has phones that can use the service.
Spicy readers may be asking now: "What is that? It makes no sense! Is Netanyahu calling Assad to attack?" In that reality show called State of Israel, things flow against gravity. Netanyahu exposed all this information not for the sake of cheering Assad in these hard days for Syria, but for justifying a new tax. On August 6, most of this data was disclosed by the Home Front Defense Minister during a meeting of the Knesset's State Control Committee. He added that the way of solving the issue is by creating a new Gas Mask Tax, which is an indirect way of forcing denizens to pay for their masks.
Reliable sources claim that the required new law will stipulate that those refusing to pay would be allowed to chose between being handed to the enemy or becoming cannon fodder in specially formed units.
* In 1992, following the Gulf War, Israel upgraded its AGA (Hebrew acronym for "Civil Defense") with the Home Front Command, its commander was upgraded from brigade general to major general. Over the years, the Command grew incredibly, absorbing funds that were needed for the air force. The new Command was highly criticized by its disastrous performance during the 2006 War between Israel and Hezbollah. Yet, the problems went beyond its performance.
Israel got clumsy. AGA worked under the "Civilian Defense Law," which was inherited by the Home Front Command. A related organization is Israel Police, which operates under the "Police Order" ("Pkudat HaMishtara," odd name, but still a law). The choice between the two while operating in civilian areas is determined by the "Army Law." The choice is made by the size of the event. Massive events are operated by the Home Front Command, smaller ones by the police.
Over the years, Israel created a redundancy which is criticized by citizens unwilling to be under army orders during an emergency (the 2006 War proved them right). Moreover, the transition to the Command changed the chain of command. Aga was allowed to interact with civilian organizations, something that created much needed flexibility during emergencies. Thus, its commander had the title of "Head of AGA," and not "Commander of AGA." In contrast, the Home Front Command can receive orders only from its military superior, the IDF Commander-in-Chief. Overall, Israel became inefficient.
In April 2013, Netanyahu started a revolution of the Command; most of its capabilities would be transferred to the civilian Ministry of Home Front Defense, a new ministry created in 2011; Matan Vilnai was its first minister, a sign of the importance given to the issue. The Command is about to change, it will resemble the historic structure of Aga. 2,000 Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers are about to be fired, and they went with the story to the media. Due to the magnitude of the event, it couldn't be censored.