Because of a shortage of funds, Israel does not have enough gas masks to distribute to all of its citizens, the Chief of Home Front Command, Major General Yair Golan, said Thursday. Even when all the masks are distributed they will only suffice for 60% of the public, he told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The remaining 40% will simply not have gas masks at any point, he said.
The special mask kits that could serve bearded people will not be distributed to people with beards but to people who have difficulty breathing. People with beards will simply have to shave them off if they wish to be protected by a mask.
Golan said that 12% of Israel's population have received gas masks and that the rest will be distributed by the end of 2011.
According to data presented by the Home Front Command, once manufacturers complete the current order of masks, the assembly lines will be shut down. If there is a decision to restart production, each mask will cost twice what it costs to make today.
Golan added that 24% of the general population lacks physical protection in the form of the so-called “protected spaces” or public shelters. Forty percent of the shelters are not usable, because of budgetary constraints.
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) reacted to the information by saying that “we must not accept a reality in which some of Israel's citizens will not have protective gear.”
Schneller noted that a team of experts that he headed has come up with various ideas that would make it possible for Israel's citizens to receive protective gear “according to egalitarian criteria and without exceeding the planned budget.”
The recommendations will soon be discussed by the Ministries of Defense and Treasury, with the aim of providing protection for all of Israel's citizens, he added.