The political-security cabinet decided on Sunday to cease the distribution of gas masks to Israeli citizens beginning in February, following the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
After February, gas mask distribution will continue at a reduced rate, and the chemical protection kits still being produced will be earmarked for emergency and rescue services, rather than the general population. The defense establishment will reassess the decision by the end of the year, the cabinet said.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the decision is responsible, well-informed, and “takes into account changes in threats in Middle East and the power of the State of Israel.”
“In light of Syria’s disbandment of chemical weapons, there is a dramatic drop in the threat of chemical weapons use against Israel, allowing us to make this morning’s decision,” said Ya’alon. “In recent years, Israel has enjoyed extraordinary offensive and defensive capabilities, and they deter states and organizations from acting against us, certainly with unconventional weapons, as the price for that would be most heavy.
“We are confident that the defense establishment and the IDF will continue to operate everywhere, near and far, to safeguard the security of Israel,” he added.
Gilad Golan, head of the CBN Department at Supergum Industries, which manufactures the gas masks, told The Jerusalem Post in November that if the defense establishment concludes that “there’s a new situation in the Middle East, and that the threat is gone, and if they reach a considered decision to stop production, I can’t fight against that.”
Golan, former head of the IDF Home Front Command’s gas mask section, expressed hope that decision makers would wait at least a year before making a final decision, and noted that the original decision to distribute gas masks came from an assessment that a future war would have no advanced warning.
Last year, the defense establishment advised the government that should Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal be destroyed, further distribution of gas masks to Israeli civilians should cease.