TEL AVIV (Apr. 14)
An abridged version of State Comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat’s sharply critical report on the gas masks distributed to the civilian population was published Sunday, to the defense establishment’s angry dissent.
Although the Knesset Control Committee deleted some parts of the report for security reasons and toned down others, it generally accepted Ben-Porat’s conclusions.
The government, on the other hand, stood by the strong objections raised by Defense Minister Moshe Arens and the Israel Defense Force chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir told the Cabinet on Sunday there was no need to discuss the report because Arens had spoken for the government.
The comptroller, a former member of the High Court of Justice, charged that up to a third of the civilian population was not provided with the same standard of protection against poison gas attack that the IDF provided for itself.
The distribution of gas masks and other gas-proof devices to the public was completed before the Persian Gulf war began on Jan. 17.
The masks, though used almost daily during the war, were never truly put to test. The Iraqis fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel during the seven-week war, none with chemical warheads.
But Ben-Porat charged the IDF provided masks and gas-proof cribs for infants, known as mamatim, which were known to be ineffective and years behind the state of the art.
Arens and Barak insisted to the Cabinet that the equipment was the best available considering budget cuts and time limits imposed by the political echelon.