On Sunday, the cabinet will hold a special solidarity meeting in Tirat Carmel to
approve a plan to assist victims of the Carmel fire, reconstruct destroyed homes
and reforest burnt-out hills.
“The objective here is to deal with these
problems as quickly as possible, to cut through the bureaucracy and to allow
these people to return to their homes... and rehabilitate their lives as quickly
as possible,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Saturday night in
up-to-date map: Fires in the Carmel
'Fire is God punishing Israel for occupying Arab lands'
Photo Gallery: Int'l responders join fire fighting
Once the fire is extinguished, he said, he wanted to create a
special system for fighting such blazes in the future from the air.
country can fight this kind of a fire alone, Netanyahu said as he summarized the
government’s efforts during the last three days to put out the blaze, which has
killed 41 people and forced 17,000 to flee their homes.
Israel should not
be ashamed that it has sought help from other countries, Netanyahu said. There
was “no shame” in its plea for assistance.
“It’s part of our existence in
the global village. We get help and give help. Israel has provided assistance
over the years in rescuing the wounded in other countries and Israel now
receives assistance – assistance on a very large scale,” Netanyahu
He noted that he had spoken with 30 heads of state, including the
United States, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian
“I must tell you their [the international community’s]
enlistment, in the heat of things, the willingness, the immediacy of their
desire to help, sometimes before we could even ask for it, these are things that
should warm the heart of every Israeli citizen,” said Netanyahu.
important fact has emerged from this difficult crisis, said Netanyahu. In spite
of the harsh personal tragedies, one thing is clear, he said.
of Israel stands together and many other nations around the world stand together
He could not help but note that on this Hanukka, both
Turkish and Greek pilots were flying together with Israeli pilots, Netanyahu
said. This was important and would have positive repercussions for Israel, he
The prime minister had spent many hours up north in the past
three days, taking helicopter tours over the area, meetings with firefighters,
evacuated families and the wounded.
At the same time, he has manned the
phones, speaking with leaders from around the world.
US President Barack
Obama spoke by phone with Netanyahu Friday to convey America’s condolences and
discuss US assistance.
“We are pursuing a ‘full court press’ to help and
have the Israeli people in our thoughts and prayers,” Obama told
So far the US has sent 12,000 liters of fire-suppressing foam
and 45 metric tons of fire-retardant spray to be disseminated from planes, and
is looking at the possibility of sending air support, according to National
Security Council senior Middle East advisor Dan Shapiro. It also sent a team of
three expert American firefighters.
“The US has been working overtime in
many, many different streams to try to be as responsive as possible to Israel’s
needs,” Shapiro said.
Obama also relayed his condolences and American
support for Israel throughout the tragedy at the annual White House Hanukka
party he hosted Thursday night.
“As rescuers and firefighters continue in
their work, the United States is acting to help our Israeli friends respond to
the disaster,” he told the approximately 500 guests in attendance. “Of course,
that’s what friends do for each other.”
In response to the fires, US
ambassador to Israel James Cunningham issued a disaster declaration, which
helped launched the effort to rapidly provide Israel as much US fire fighting
assistance as possible.
In addition to the chemicals provided, America is
also providing fire-mapping to help local responders get accurate pictures of
the extent of the fire and is offering to assess the costs of the fire and what
will be needed in the long term to cope with its consequences.
moving as quickly as we can to provide this assistance, and are heartened by
similar efforts to contribute resources from Israel’s other friends around the
world,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement put out
Thursday night, stressing that “we are fully committed to assisting Israel
during this tragedy.”
She continued, “My hope is that the fires are
extinguished soon. The hearts of the people of the United States go out to the
people of Israel, and we stand with them at this difficult time.”
Prime Minister David Cameron called his Israeli counterpart on Friday afternoon
to extend condolences and sympathies for the lives lost in the ongoing forest
fires in the Carmel.
“The prime minister extended his sincere condolences
and great sympathies for the tragic loss of life in Israel in the ongoing forest
fires. The UK had been glad to be able to help through the deployment of two UK
helicopters based in Cyprus.
Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked the British
government for the help; Britain had been amongst the first nations to provide
assistance,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
Among those who have sent
planes, helicopters and assistance are: Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Russia, France,
the United States, Britain, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, Italy,
Croatia, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.Jonny Paul
contributed to this report from London.
Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin