Firefighter carries remains of Katyusha rocket 311 (R).
(photo credit: baz ratner/reuters)
In 2009, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered state agencies to speed up the distribution of gas masks to citizens who had yet to receive them. The premier didn’t bother to check how much money would be needed for such an endeavor. He made do with giving the order. Yesterday it became apparent that the order got no further than his room.
Forty percent of Israel’s citizens do not have gas masks. What’s needed is NIS 1.3 billion in order to supply them with gas masks in addition to NIS 300 million for maintaining and refurbishing them every year. That’s a lot of money. Where will it come from? You guessed right – out of our pockets.
At a hearing convened by the Knesset State Control Committee on Wednesday, representatives of the National Security Council proposed that the initiative be subsidized by slightly increasing National Insurance Institute payments. How nice of them. The NSC specializes in issues of national security, not socio-economic matters.
They don’t seem to grasp that there are things the public simply cannot afford and will not agree to.
After the recent wave of austerity measures, the public has earned the right to tell its government that it should find alternate sources of funding. After all, it’s the state’s responsibility, not the public’s.
To his credit, Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan did not take part in this scheme. He isn’t even that worked up about the gas mask issue, justifiably so in my view. Erdan is far more perturbed by the fact that 52 percent of Tel Aviv residents do not have a bomb shelter or bomb-proof room.
The IDF anticipates that the next large-scale conflict will entail barrages of thousands of conventional rockets and missiles upon our cities. It is far more urgent to ensure that our citizens are protected from this problem, which is far more immediate and present, than from chemical missiles, which have never been fired on Israel. Whoever does dare use chemical warheads against Israel knows that the response will be disproportionate, and that it would mean his end.
It wouldn’t be farfetched to say that we will not have to pay an additional tax or NII fee to fund the gas mask distribution. What is more worrisome is that while the danger to Israeli citizens has grown more menacing (Bibi is once again threatening to bomb Iran), the level of protection has not grown with it. On the contrary, it’s taken a step backward.
The time has come to name a full-time minister to fill this post. Erdan is already manning the position, and he knows how to do the job. What he needs, though, is the proper authority and mandate. He will knock on every door, turn over every stone, bring creative ideas, and work on the issue from dusk until dawn.
In any event, he will get the blame after a committee of inquiry is formed after the next war.