Agriculture Minister Ze'ev Boim, who came under a barrage of criticism last week for his ministry's response to the avian flu, hit back Sunday, telling the cabinet that Israel took action more quickly than other countries in the world faced with a bird flu outbreak.
At the same time, Agricultural Ministry officials warned that the presence of the flu in Egypt, Gaza and Jordan could cause it to reappear in Israel as well.
Prime Minister's Office director-general Ilan Cohen told reporters before Sunday's cabinet meeting that Israel was particularly concerned about the situation in Gaza, where there were an estimated 2 million fowl.
Cohen said that Palestinian farmers might not be willing to kill their fowl if they were not compensated, and the flu might spread as a result. He said that Israel had provided the Palestinians with know-how and equipment to combat the flu, including poison that could kill the infected poultry.
The World Bank announced over the weekend that it was going to funnel $2 million to the Palestinians to pay compensation to chicken farmers.
Boim, briefing the cabinet on how Israel combated the flu, said that in nine days some 1.2 million poultry from 53 chicken farms in 14 different communities were destroyed and buried.
By comparison, he said, it took 23 days to destroy and bury the poultry at one site in Japan. When the flu reappeared at another site, it took the Japanese 31 days to destroy and bury the birds.
In Canada, he said, the flu led to the destruction of 13 million birds over a seven-month period, and in South Korea 5 million fowl were destroyed and buried in 3.5 months.
In Egypt, he said, the flu spread across the country before the government even admitted that it had a problem.
Boim informed the cabinet that poultry farmers would receive 50% of their financial compensation this week, and that he had ordered a report on direct and collateral damage from the bird flu.
He said the destroying and burying of the fowl was carried out by the Eshkol, Lachish, and Jordan Valley regional councils, with the help of the Defense Ministry.