"The cabinet's decision to upgrade the kits without clearly setting any deadlines is a farce that repeats all the mistakes made in the neglect of the home front during the Second Lebanon War. I can already see the committee of inquiry into the next war, and it will be far worse than Winograd," MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said on Wednesday.
The defense establishment announced earlier in the day that the atomic, biological, and chemical protection kits recently collected from the public will be upgraded and redistributed.
The decision to redistribute the kits was made by the Defense Ministry, in view of the recent ground-to-ground missile threats made evident against Israel and in an attempt to boost home front readiness against a possible chemical attack emanating form Iran or Syria.
Within a few months, said the ministry, all A.B.C kits given to the public will be collected, updated and redistributed, in a manner yet to be determined.
Steinitz, who in his capacity as chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in 2007 prepared an alarming report on the preparedness of the home front on the A.B.C. front, said it was irresponsible to take the kits out of people's homes.
The MK recommended that in light of the delays in the collection and redistribution of the kits, the defense establishment should provide citizens in danger zones (primarily in the North) with spare kits from Israel's storage.
Combat reservists should also receive kits, Steinitz said, so that they are able to report to the front lines for service already equipped with them.
"But not a single upgraded kit has been redistributed thus far," he said, "despite the billions that Israel has invested in purchasing and upgrading these kits, we are the least prepared we've been for such an attack in over 20 years."
Trying to prevent a panic
Security officials appearing before the cabinet stressed that the defense establishment has no intention of causing a public panic, but nevertheless, the government must be prepared for the possibility that missiles carrying "dirty" warheads may be fired on the exposed Israeli home front.
National Emergency Administration Chief Brigadier-General (Res) Ze'ev Tzuk-Ram told Ynet that "there is absolutely no need for panic of any kind. This was a predictable move, which got the go-ahead this morning; and following the (cabinet's) green light we will complete collecting the kits from the public, at which point they will be updated and then redistributed."
The expected cost of the project was not made public.
The Home Front Command is expected to hold a nation-wide emergency drill next week simulating a series of emergency situations and checking readiness of security and emergency forces, local municipalities, schools, and even the cabinet itself – to respond to the developing events.
Syria is expected to follow the drill closely, as the London-based Arab newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi suggested Wednesday that Damascus perceives it to be part of Israel's preparations for a comprehensive Israeli strike on it.