Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch warned on Monday that the "drug problem in Israel poses a strategic existential threat on the Israeli society".
Speaking before the Knesset Committee on Drug Abuse, the minister presented data stating that 60,000 youths aged 12-18 use drugs – about 10% of the young population.
Aharonovitch said the total number of drug users stands at 320,000, and that these figures continue to rise. About five tons of heroin, four tons of cocaine and 3.5 tons of hashish are consumed each year in Israel.
The economic damage alone that stems from drug abuse stands at some NIS 7 billion ($1.79 billion). "These are terrible numbers, but they are just the tip of the iceberg," the minister said.
In addition to the direct damage, Aharonovitch also discussed the damage caused by road accidents, and noted the rising wave in alcohol consumption, which he noticed during his tour of pubs around the country when he took office.
According to Aharonovitch, the PR campaign "If you drink, you don't drive" is not penetrating the drivers' consciousness.
The minister stressed the difficulty in dealing with the drug problem due to the breached borders with Lebanon and Egypt. "The borders are not hermetically closed," he said.
"In Lebanon there is a fence and there are also successful attempts at catching drug smugglers, but the amounts that are actually smuggled are several times higher – and in this matter, the police only have assessments and not accurate data on the dimensions of the smuggling.
"The border with Egypt is breached, not just for drug smuggling, and only with Jordan do we have cooperation between the Jordanian special forces and the Israeli units that reap good results," he continued.
The air and sea ports also serve as drug smuggling points, the minister said, adding that Israel also serves as a drug smuggling passage point from South America and other locations.