JERUSALEM, Israel - Distribution of refurbished gas masks, planned for January, may now be delayed another six months due to budgetary disputes.
"Most of the masks are refurbished and they are sitting and waiting to be returned to the public," a senior defense ministry official said.
"We initially wanted to return the masks in January, but the Treasury did not release the funds, and we are still waiting for the budget to be able to hire a civilian company to distribute them," he said.
According to this official, distribution of gas masks acts as a deterrent to Israel's enemies.
"When an enemy knows that the number of casualties will not be so high since the public has the masks it needs, (it causes him) to think very hard whether it is in its best interest to used chemical weapons," he said.
Meanwhile, the IDF is looking into charging for gas masks to help meet increasing costs. Should the plan go through, it would be the first time in the nation's history that its citizens have to pay for gas masks.
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnay (Kadima) has been meeting with Treasury officials to reach an agreement on financing the redistribution of gas masks, budgeted at 150 million (about $40 million) shekels over the past three years.
Without an agreement, Vilnay said the distribution could be delayed till the middle of 2009, leaving the Israeli public at risk in the event of a missile attack using non-conventional warheads.
Sources: Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post