PM has cold feet before Carmel Fire C'tee meeting

Netanyahu backs away from hearing that he believes could turn out to be political ambush because of presence of emotional bereaved families.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
March 6, 2011 21:23
2 minute read.
Danny Rozen yells as Netanyahu speaks

Netanyahu Speech Interrupted 311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

One day before he was supposed to attend a Knesset committee hearing on the State Comptroller’s conclusions on fire preparedness and the Carmel Fire, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu displayed cold feet Sunday, backing away from a hearing that he believed could turn out to be a political ambush.

Netanyahu’s office expressed concern that State Control Committee Chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima) had encouraged bereaved families to attend the meeting in order to set up a situation in which the premier would be confronted by emotional family members, similar to the events at a memorial service for the 44 people killed in the December fire.

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The Prime Minister’s Office requested the intercession of Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Sunday afternoon, telling Rivlin that they were concerned that Hasson was encouraging families to attend the televised meeting to create a provocation.

Rivlin, in turn, proposed a compromise by which only representatives of the 44 bereaved families would attend the Monday morning meeting.

Hasson, however, rejected the very idea of the compromise.

“Nobody is negotiating with me regarding bereaved families’ attendance, and I have no intent to do so over the type or number of bereaved families that the prime minister is willing to have attend the hearing,” retorted Hasson. “I certainly do not intend to undermine the basic principle of open hearings in the Knesset that can be seen by all, and that permit the participation of all relevant parties.”

“It is arrogant to argue that the bereaved families are not relevant to the hearing, and one must question why the Prime Minister’s Office is investing such effort in an attempt to determine the agenda of the hearing that he knew about weeks in advance,” Hasson continued.

“The hearing will be held in a relevant and respectable manner, as is appropriate, and with the participation of all those who were invited,” Hasson concluded.

With the possibility for a compromise on the attendees dwindling, Rivlin also said that if he were asked to do so, he would be willing to attend the hearing as a calming factor to ensure that all parties are heard.

In January, a memorial service for fire victims at Kibbutz Beit Oren was interrupted when victims’ families shouted down Netanyahu and forced Interior Minister Eli Yishai to leave the auditorium. Even after the prime minister completed his speech, some families continued to heckle him, with one woman yelling “you killed my husband! You have no shame!”


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