On 7 October 2023, the Hamas terror organization launched a murderous attack on Israel, invading communities along the border and killing some 1,300 people and kidnapping 222 others, whose condition remains unknown, into the Gaza Strip. The attack, unprecedented in its cruelty and scope, primarily targeted Israel’s civilian population. Emulating the terror methods of ISIS, Hamas terrorists killed passersby at point blank and massacred young people partying at a music festival and whole families in kibbutzim and other localities; they burned to death residents who took refuge in bomb shelters and tortured others before slaughtering or kidnapping them; they abducted hundreds of men, women, elderly persons, children, and toddlers; many Israelis are missing, and Hamas has not acknowledged holding them or provided any information about their fate.
Since that day, the State of Israel has been in a state of war on several fronts. Citizens and residents in different spheres are clamoring for an urgent response, which the dysfunctional Netanyahu government is incapable of providing: direct victims of the Hamas attack on the Gaza Envelope communities, evacuees from localities along the border with Lebanon, and the rest of Israel’s citizens and residents who are experiencing this emergency situation in a variety of ways, some of them under constant barrages of rocket and missile fire.
This document focuses on the needs and rights of Israel’s citizens and residents affected by the state of war. As will be explained below, for the same reasons that a war cabinet was created, it is imperative to immediately establish a civil emergency cabinet to replace a dysfunctional government that lacks the public’s trust. Zulat hereby presents a series of action proposals for such a cabinet, aimed at providing an effective and quick response to the human and civil rights of citizens and residents who have been affected by the war.
From day one, in the face of its efforts to promote a regime revolution, Zulat has repeatedly warned about the current government’s crusades to weaken the status of gatekeepers, impair the independence of civil service’s professional echelon, and crush the functioning of all government ministries and many public entities. The appointment of cronies lacking the minimum qualifications and unfit for public positions and the advancement of corrupt interests took precedence over the public interest.
With citizens and residents in dire need of an urgent and immediate response, the Netanyahu government, which polls show has lost the trust of the majority of Israelis, continues to behave as it did until 7 October 2023. Just as in the days when they blatantly promoted a regime revolution, Netanyahu continues to absolve himself of any responsibility, while ministers and coalition MKs continue their campaigns of incitement against the professional echelon, ego war fights, and appointment of cronies. Clearly totally out of touch with reality, the coalition parties insist on going ahead with the implementation of the agreements signed upon the establishment of the government.
For example, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has so far refused to stop the transfer of political allocations. He has commandeered the Directorate for Rehabilitation of the Gaza Envelope and his proposals to temporarily relocate the communities to distant areas have fueled concerns among evacuees that the plan is to replace them with national-religious groups identified with the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit. For their part, Minister Yisrael Katz insists on fulfilling the agreement to rotate jobs with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, while Transportation Minister Miri Regev is busy serving coffee and pastries to soldiers as a gimmick to boost her image at a time when there is not enough armor for the mobilized reservists.
The establishment of an emergency government and a small war cabinet on 12 October was actually designed to circumvent the inciteful, dangerous, and dysfunctional members of the current political-security cabinet. In addition, Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly instructed Minister Smotrich to establish a small forum to coordinate the civilian response during the war. It should be noted that in December 2007, as part of the lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War, the government decided to create the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA). However, its functioning has been impaired due to the fact that NEMA comes under the authority of Defense Minister Yoav Galant, who is in conflict with all the other ministers, especially with Netanyahu.
For the same reasons that a war cabinet was created, it is imperative to immediately establish a Civil Emergency Cabinet to replace a dysfunctional government that commands no trust from the public. The people who wrecked the state authorities cannot be the same ones who rehabilitate them and lead them in war. According to Zulat’s proposal, this Civil Emergency Cabinet should make sure to have equitable representation of women and adequate representation of Arab citizens, and should include representatives of the opposition, representatives of the coalition who are not currently serving as government ministers, representatives of the professional echelon in relevant ministries and authorities, alongside representatives of the local government, Gaza Envelope communities, civil society, and the business sector in the status of observers.
Such a civil cabinet would be required to provide an effective and quick response to the human and civil rights of citizens and residents who have been hurt by the war. To this end, Zulat presents the points of reference for its operations:
The Right to Health
- Coordinate initiatives on the part of the health funds and the Ministry of Health to provide survivors of the terror attack with comprehensive care and ensure that no one falls through the cracks. The question of nursing care needs special attention due to a shortage of caregivers, either because some were injured themselves or are not prepared to work in the circumstances created by the war.
- Provide services without an appointment in all health fund clinics and hospitals throughout the country for survivors and evacuees from Gaza/Lebanon border communities. Presently there is a shortage of specialty doctors in various parts of the country, especially in the field of mental health.
- Initiate a National Insurance Institute response. Given that there is no dispute that this was an act of hostility, thereby obviating the need for an individual examination of each and every case, and to prevent solicitation by lawyers, the NII’s Victims of Hostilities Department should at its own initiative contact the victims based on the lists of residents of the Gaza Envelope and help them fill out all the necessary forms.
The Right to Housing
- Provide a temporary solution to evacuees from southern and northern Israel in the form of vouchers or direct payments, offering them the choice of housing with the rest of their community or separately. Evacuees should be able to arrange payment and search for housing online, and not be required to contact the various offices in person.
- Initiate compensation by the Property Tax Department to people whose homes were destroyed. Given that there is no dispute that this was an act of hostility, thereby obviating the need for an individual examination of each and every case, and to prevent solicitation by lawyers, the Property Tax Department should at its own initiative contact the homeowners based on the lists of residents of the Gaza/Lebanon border communities and help them fill out all the necessary forms.
- Create a rehabilitation basket for the affected Gaza Envelope communities in full coordination with them and according to their needs. It is imperative to prevent cases of corruption, conflicts of interest, and misuse of the rehabilitation project (for example, to move national-religious youth groups into the communities against the latter’s wishes).
The Right to Protection of Life and Body
- Provide a swift response to the lack of protection in all recognized and unrecognized localities at risk, including body armor, mobile bomb shelters, enforcement by local authorities against the use of private and public shelters for other needs, etc. An online website should be launched where residents can report the lack of protection, so that no one falls through the cracks.
- Stop the hijacking of Arab localities by crime organizations. The surge in murders and crime in Arab society is one of the main manifestations of this government’s criminal negligence. While the security forces are diverted to the war effort in the north and south, crime organizations might complete their hijacking of Arab communities. Therefore, it is imperative to strengthen Arab municipal authorities, first and foremost to transfer to them without delay all the budgets withheld by the Minister of Finance.
- Curb acts of revenge by far-right activists. There is fear about a dramatic surge in Jewish terrorism and “price tag” actions against non-Jews throughout the country due to the public/political legitimacy to avenge the atrocities committed by Hamas. We have already seen cases of racially-motivated violence as well as an increase in incitement against the Arab public.
- Reinforce rather than continue to privatize the Israel Police and prevent the creation of private armed militias. The Minister of National Security has been taking advantage of the war to implement his election campaign pledges. It is imperative to immediately recruit more personnel to the Israel Police and Civil Guard, or as a second option, to reinforce them with private security companies under the government’s supervision (however nonoptimal this may be). This would undercut the Minister‘s intention to issue weapons to all and sundry and to encourage citizens to set up private militias without any supervision or with minimal coordination with the police, which would lead to a surge in domestic violence and harm innocent people. Minister Ben-Gvir’s scheme would have far-reaching consequences even after the war, as the privatization of the Israel Police could prove irreversible.
The Right to Property
- Initiate compensation by the Property Tax Department to businesses damaged physically or due to loss of revenue. Given that there is no dispute that this was an act of hostility, thereby obviating the need for an individual examination of each and every case, and to prevent solicitation by lawyers, the Property Tax Department should at its own initiative contact the businessowners based on the lists of residents of the Gaza/Lebanon border communities and help them fill out all the necessary forms.
- Coordinate an interest-free and nonindex-linked moratorium on tax payments for businesses and self-employed persons in the Gaza/Lebanon border communities who so wish. Given that we are in a state of war with no foreseeable end, it is imperative to give brakes to businesses, which are required to pay property tax, VAT, national insurance, and income tax even though they have been deprived of a livelihood.
- Coordinate defense and safety of deserted businesses in Gaza/Lebanon border communities. Crime organizations and protection racketeers might take advantage of the situation to loot and commandeer businesses and merchandise, whose owners were forced to leave or were physically injured.
- Coordinate moratorium on writs of execution in evacuated Gaza/Lebanon border communities, in particular about nonpayment for utilities like electricity and water.
The Right to Education
- Provide a solution for all children evacuated from Gaza/Lebanon border communities. The response should be based on lessons learned from the education system’s failings during the Covid pandemic, including with regard to remote teaching. It is imperative to bring educators from other districts and recruit currently unemployed teachers, and not rely solely on the communities’ erstwhile personnel, who may themselves be victims, evacuated from their homes or otherwise affected by the war.
- Coordinate a response for students in higher education institutions. Among other things, stop collecting tuition fees from students who were evacuated from their communities along the Gaza/Lebanon borders and bolster the financial stability of institutions that were physically damaged or are unable to start the school year due to the war.
- Stop the transfer of political funds. The allocation of political funds derived from the coalition agreements must be reassessed. Funds must henceforth be given to educational institutions only according to universal and equitable criteria.
The Right to Information
- Secure maximum transparency on the allocation of state funds for the civilian response to the war. Due to the lack of trust in the government, it is imperative to דecure maximum transparency and detailed information about all approved budgets and projects, public to all calls for bids, contracts, and decisions based on universal and equitable criteria.
- Require obligatory documentation of all the minutes of meetings, discussions, and decisions of the government, the war cabinet, and the civil emergency cabinet, as well as of all discussions and correspondence between ministers, coalition members, and inside ministries, including “informal” discussions and correspondence (e-mail and telephone apps). Given the public’s lack of trust in the government and the fact that some of its members are busy trying to shirk responsibility, documentation is of great importance to enable the future commission of inquiry to do its job.
- Require full or at least partial disclosure of every discussion and decision. Given the lack of trust in the government, the public’s reliance on leaks in the mainstream media and social platforms contributes to the spread of fake news and may even hold back their cooperation even when at stake are decisions that serve the public interest.
- Coordinate the fight against fake news, which leads to violations of human and civil rights. Among other things, apply the rules on publication by the government to the social media accounts of ministers. There is no reason why a minister should be able to publish on his social media accounts the kind of information or statement that he is not allowed to publish in a ministry’s official circular or bulletin.
Translation from hebrew: Shoshana Michkin