As noted, until the establishment of the Command, the responsibility for the home front fell to MAK’HELAR – the Headquarters of the Chief Command Officer for HAGA (Civil Defense) and HAG’MAR (Regional Defense).
On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and annexed it.
After the sanctions imposed on Iraq by the coalition of western countries failed, the United States, on November 29, 1990, received the go-ahead from the Security Council of the United Nations to “use all necessary means” to cause Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, starting January 15, 1991. At the same time, the Americans tried opening diplomatic channels with Iraq, with no success.
On January 16, as the ultimatum ran its course, Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi ruler, announced that Iraq would not give up Kuwait even at the cost of a war. The United States moved its forces into place both by sea and by land to prepare for the attack. War was inevitable.
The war lasted 42 days. The Americans worked intensively to destroy the Iraqi army and sites of strategic importance in terms of security, and were successful. The war ended with an Iraqi defeat and the withdrawal of its forces from Kuwait.
The Gulf War was a different type of war, a war in which the rear had to protect itself and in fact became the front. This was also a war in the media in which the falling of a shell or a bomb was broadcast live. This contributed to a change in international relations, and jumpstarted a concerted peace process.
Before the outbreak of hostilities, Iraq tried to draw Israel into becoming involved in the crisis. Such attempts included, for example, the Iraqi military spokesman announcing that the I.D.F., in disguise, had participated in the American taskforce, and the Iraqi threat of aggressive reprisals against Israel should the U.S.A. make a military move against Iraq or harm Iraq’s interests in Kuwait. The response of the Israeli government was that while Israel is an ally of the United States, Israel does not see itself as a partner in the crisis. Israel maintained a low profile from the day Iraq invaded Kuwait, and did not participate in the political contacts between Iraq and the U.S.A. Despite this “low profile” policy, the I.D.F., through HAGA, took a number of steps particularly in the field of the defense of the home front to thwart any attempt to harm Israel through both conventional and unconventional weapons.
In the course of the war, the I.D.F. took a number of steps regarding the home front:
1. Handing out personal protection kits to all residents in Israel for protection against unconventional weapons.
Wide-ranging use of the media to disseminate information and directions on how to use he masks and how to behave during an alert.
Publicizing directions for preparing a sealed and secure room in every home and in public places, and instructions to avoid large gatherings.
Cooperation between medical and rescue organizations in the rear.
These actions together with insights from the war on the part of both the political and military echelons quickly led to the decision to establish the Home Front Command. The experience accrued over 42 days of tension clarified that only such a step would enable preparation, organization, and a high state of readiness for the State of Israel in three ways:
Legally: Before the Gulf War, the Home Front Command was comprised of three rear commands under the command of the regional commands (Northern, Central and Southern). The command responsibility fell to the Major-Generals of these commands. The Home Front Command, a professional and organizational establishment, had no authority or responsibility on the ground. This situation stood in contradiction to the Law of Civilian Defense of 1951 which gave autonomy and wide-ranging authority to the Home Front Command.
Operationally: Often, it is important to prepare the rear while fighting is happening on the front lines. In such cases, the Home Front Command frees the Major-Generals of the other commands (Northern, Central and Southern) of responsibility for the rear, and allows them to focus on operational needs of the front.
Organizationally: The establishment of the Home Front Command allows for greater efficiency in the existing units, and ensures better coordination with all civilian bodies and emergency organizations. As early as 1975, several committees investigated the subject of the organization that would deal with civilian defense, and recommended the establishment of the Home Front Command. The possibility of a threat towards the rear during a time of war on several fronts raised the awareness about the home front, and emphasized the need for a single body to concentrate all efforts on the home front during an emergency.
On February 17, 1992, the Home Front Command was established as the fourth command in the I.D.F.