Government skewered over refusal to pass out gas masks

Monday, August 13, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

Israel's Army Radio reported on Monday that Syria is nearly finished with a massive deployment of long-range missile capable of hitting Tel Aviv with non-conventional warheads.

Despite that threat, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak insisted that he will not order the distribution of updated gas masks to the tens of thousands who would die in a chemical or biological strike on Israel's population centers.

Barak said that passing out gas masks and emergency medical kits at this time would be interpreted as preparations for war by Syria, increasing the likelihood that Damascus will misunderstand Israel's intentions and commence hostilities.

Lawmaker Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who heads the Knesset Subcommittee on the Home Front's Preparedness, told The Jerusalem Post in response that Barak's folly is similar to that of former minister of defense Moshe Dayan in the run-up to the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

“The decision not to hand out masks so as not to upset the Syrians reminds me of Moshe Dayan's unfortunate decision not to call up the reserves so as not to upset the Syrians and the Egyptians on the eve of the Yom Kippur War,” said Steinitz. “I say it's possible to defend the citizens of the state from threats, and whoever does not do this will stand before a commission of inquiry next to which the [investigation into the handling of last year's Lebanon war] will pale in comparison.”

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