State to High Court: No plan for full gas mask distribution before mid-2014

45% of the population may wait a long time until they actually have their masks in hand.

October 28, 2013 20:13
2 minute read.
A child watches as gas masks are handed out at a center in Jerusalem, August 28, 2013.

Gas masks Jerusalem 370. (photo credit: Reuters)


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The state told the High Court of Justice on Monday that until mid-2014, it will not begin to complete a plan to provide gas masks to the population who are without, estimated as high as 45 percent.

In other words, the unequipped portion of the population will wait long past when the mid-2014 plan is finalized until they can actually have their masks in hand.

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The petition was filed in the beginning of September by Labor MK Nachman Shai and the NGO Front for the Public Defense.

Justice Yoram Danziger blasted the state’s response, stating that its gradual approach to solving the problem might have “sounded reasonable if we were two and-a-half years after the 2009 decision,” referring to the government’s decision in 2009 to distribute gas masks to the entire populace by the middle of 2011.

Next, the state was asked what its criteria is for deciding who is able to receive gas masks first and in what order.

When the state responded with the vague assurance that the gradual distribution process was open to everyone, Deputy Supreme Court President Miriam Naor quipped, “you have no criteria, other than whoever comes first, wins. Whoever comes to the post-office distribution area first will get.”

She added that giving to whoever shows up first “is not criteria, when there are not enough [masks].”

Naor continued, “In a situation of not enough, you need to set criteria. For professional authorities this is a slogan.”

She then questioned the state from different angles in an attempt to extract more information about the process for gas mask distribution.

Eventually, the state expressed frustration, noting that for years it had “offered to distribute gas masks,” but that a “very weird process” took place with “the state’s residents” in which “no one came” until after “some report in the media, suddenly they all assemble” at once to get the masks.

The state added that “if people had come to take the masks” before, then there would not have been “the long lines which were photographed by the media.”

The petition was filed in the shadow of Syria’s use of chemical weapons on a Damascus suburb that killed 1,429 Syrians and what Shai called “existential threats facing and confronting the state.”

Shai’s petition came shortly after State Comptroller Joseph Shapira upbraided the state for a litany of failures in its distribution of gas masks on everything from shortages, long lines, to leaving too many citizens undefended from a potential chemical weapons attack.

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