'Israeli Home Front is not prepared for unconventional war'

Government cancels budget for gas masks in 2014, Knesset subcommittee says as MK Yishai calls for increased financing over "serious deficiencies;" Rivlin: Government failed thus far, but fixing it now "danger is imminent."

IDF Gas Mask preparedness drill 521 (photo credit: IDF)
IDF Gas Mask preparedness drill 521
(photo credit: IDF)
The government must increase the budget for gas mask production, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee on Home Front Preparedness chairman Eli Yishai said on Wednesday.
In a special subcommittee meeting in light of the situation in Syria, Yishai pointed out that the government did not allocate any funds for “Operation Sandstorm” – home front preparedness for war or unconventional attacks – in the 2014 state budget.
“There are serious deficiencies in the budget. When something happens, it’ll be too late to supply citizens with masks and syringes,” said Yishai, who was a member of the previous government’s security cabinet.
Although his subcommittee sent letters to government ministries before the budget was approved, the situation has not changed, and Yishai called for the Finance Ministry to allocate funds for home front preparedness.
Yishai implied that part of the reason Operation Sandstorm was defunded is a turf war between the Defense Ministry and Home Front Defense Ministry over their areas of authority.
“The budget shows the government’s priorities, so [the lack of funding] seems very strange to me,” he added.
Yishai also criticized the government’s decision not to fund the continued manufacturing of gas masks, saying that they will not be able to import masks for children.
Not only must the government not stop funding gas mask factories, it should pay to immediately increase production, and within a month there will be sufficient supplies in case of a war, he stated.
“The home front is somewhat ready for [unconventional attacks] in 2013, but insufficiently so, and not prepared at all for 2014,” Yishai warned.
At the same time, Yishai said the public should not panic and should listen to government instructions.
“The Jewish people has been through a lot in its history, and we have to be ready for any scenario. We have to be able to make immediate decisions,” he asserted.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu), a subcommittee member, called home front preparedness the “major responsibility” of the state.
“Until a year ago, the budget supported manufacture and distribution of gas masks, but this year the budget is zero because of economic problems. In light of recent developments, the budget and production should be brought back, and [the subcommittee is] working with the government on a solution for mass distribution,” Rivlin explained.
According to Rivlin, “there is no doubt that the government made a mistake and is only fixing it now when the danger is imminent.” Rivlin also pointed out that most Israelis have gas masks from 25 years ago, which must be replaced.
“The public should be careful, but not nervous. Our ability to deal with chemical threats depends on our strength, and not necessarily on supplies,” he said.