To Fund Gas Masks, Israel's Finance Ministry Could Raid National Insurance Coffers

Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen

The Finance Ministry has recently begun discussions with the National Security Council and the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office of the possibility that gas masks will be paid for through funding provided by the National Insurance Institute.

According to figures presented yesterday to the Knesset Control Committee, current funding for the purchase of gas masks, which will be made available during 2013, will suffice for gas mask distribution until March 2014. Funding for distribution for 2014 has not yet been earmarked.

According to an official familiar with the subject, it has not yet been decided whether people will be asked to pay more for the gas masks, or whether the funding will be taken from regular payments to the National Insurance Institute.

“We understand that there is no budget in the foreseeable future to allow the required funding to distribute the gas masks to the whole population,” the official said.

By the end of this year, gas masks will have been distributed to about 60 percent of the population. To complete the distribution to the whole population, approximately NIS 1.3 billion more will be needed.

Another outlay that also needs to be funded is the refurbishing of gas masks, which are good for 25 years – at a cost another NIS 300 million a year, Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan told the committee.

“In the past various decisions were made by governments about the distribution of the masks and a problematic situation was created: Some people have them and some don’t,” Erdan said.

According to the deputy chairman of the National Security Council, Ze’ev Tzuk-Ram, a legalist examination of the issue determined that existing regulations already allow coverage of gas mask funding through the National Insurance Institute, contingent on approval by the social services minister. “During the Gulf War, gas masks were handed out in a similar manner, with a small part of payments to the National Insurance Institute earmarked for the gas masks.” Tzuk-Ram said it was only right that the government should examining the ways and means to fund the gas masks for the 40 percent that do not yet have them.

The committee also discussed the matter of the division of powers between the Home Front Command and the Home Front Ministry during an emergency. Tzuk-Ram said a decision on the matter is expected tomorrow.

A gas mask distribution center in Tel Aviv.Credit: Moti Milrod

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