TEL AVIV – Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday warned that the home front area near the border with Syria and Lebanon in Israel’s north was not adequately prepared for a potential war.
“We invested 37 times more in preparing [Gaza adjacent towns of] the envelope than in preparing the north,” he said at a conference hosted by the Israeli website Ynet in Jerusalem.
“The readiness of the homefront in the Gaza border area is at its best, but the situation is less pleasing in the north,” Liberman said, adding that while Israel has invested NIS 1.7 billion ($490 million) in protecting the south from potential attacks, only NIS 236 million ($67.7 million) has been invested in the north.
“Words are not enough,” he added. “There are some 46,000 residents in the Gaza envelope, and the State of Israel has invested 37,000 shekels [$11,000] per resident there. In the north, it’s backward. If we compare the strip of land in the north, it is 900 kilometers and some 244,000 residents. There, we invested only 970 shekels [$280] per resident.”
In order to bolster protection in the north, Liberman said, a five-year plan with a minimum investment of a billion shekels per year must be formulated.
“I am not pointing any fingers; this is the reality. The entire cabinet bears responsibility,” he said.
Liberman also urged Israelis to keep calm as news that Hamas is planning what they’re calling a million man march to storm the border fence between Israel and Gaza this Friday, coinciding with both Passover eve and Palestinian Land Day, which marks events in 1976 that reflect the Palestinians’ struggle to own the land.
“Our advice to everyone is not to panic,” he said. “Everything can be handled with composure. We are prepared for every eventuality, and we are boosting our presence.”
Palestinians from Gaza have been urged to set up “tent cities” close to the border and to remain there until what they call Nakba Day – the day of “catastrophe” that marks the establishment of the State of Israel.
Security cabinet officials on Sunday were briefed on how best to deal with erupting protests and violence that may ensue in the coming weeks ahead of Israel’s 70th Independence Day. Protests are expected to intensify with the scheduled transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
Israeli Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi on Sunday warned of a possible “explosion” by the Palestinians in the coming weeks.