Israel's home front is not at all prepared for the event of a non-conventional attack, according to a report concluded by a subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday. The report found that in the event of a biological or chemical attack, the authorities would not have enough time to distribute gas masks and other emergency supplies to the entire population. "By the time the supplies reached most of the citizens of Israel, it would already be too late," said MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who headed the Subcommittee on the Home Front's Preparedness.
Defense Ministry: New gas masks by end of 2008
Steinitz said the committee was demanding that the defense establishment resume the practice of handing out gas masks and other emergency supplies to citizens on an individual basis. In 2003, the Defense Ministry stopped handing out individual masks due to budget cuts. At that time, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz swore to work out a system by which emergency kits would reach citizens in the North in a matter of hours, and citizens in the rest of Israel within two to three days.
The subcommittee has asked that the defense establishment comptroller and the state comptroller look into "how the Knesset of Israel was apparently misled on a critical issue like the redistribution of the kits." In the report, the subcommittee found that it would take four to seven days to disperse kits to the North, and possibly weeks longer for the kits to reach the rest of the country.
The committee also called for the kits to be updated, stating that their current state will bring the "de facto destruction by our own hands of the home front defense system." They called for NIS 1 billion to be spent this year to ensure that residents in the North are provided kits.
Former OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Zeev Livne told Army Radio on Monday that while the situation was not "particularly good," there was no need to worry.
Livne said that gas masks should be collected en masse and handed out only in the face of an imminent threat.
"Assuming that what's [in the report] is correct, the situation isn't encouraging regarding protection from chemical weapons. However, there is no need for hysteria... but [rather] to act, and I know that steps are being taken," Livne said.