(photo credit: AP)
A moment of silence in the Knesset for victims of the Carmel fire faded away
into hours of blame and recriminations when MKs took the stand in the plenum to
offer their condolences to bereaved families, but also to call for the
resignation of Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
RELATED:The flames are out, now come recovery,
recriminationsYishai says calls for his resignation are 'a
lynching'Premium: Yishai ranks lowest on ministerial performance poll
Yishai, meanwhile, remained
on the defensive, describing the criticism against him as a “lynching” and
attempting to explain away a Jerusalem Post report that he had refused a
donation of fire equipment.
“The interior minister has direct ministerial
responsibility for the firefighting services,” MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz)
“The person who was given ministerial authority also has
Horowitz was one of a number of legislators,
including Kadima’s Shlomo Molla and Labor’s Eitan Cabel, who singled out the
interior minister and called for his resignation.
In response to the Post
report that he had refused to accept funding from the International Fellowship
of Christians and Jews for further purchases of fire equipment, Yishai said he
had been unaware that an IFCJ event that he had declined to attend was for fire
Had he known, he said, he would have made sure to
Yishai said he would attend future events the organization held, as
long as it was contributing money for social affairs and not for religious
The IFCJ said in response that it was holding an event in the
Knesset next week, in which it was distributing money to 150 local authorities
to help the needy. Yishai, it said, had canceled his attendance at that event as
Yishai visited Usfiya on Monday and continued to deflect any blame,
shifting it to the Finance Ministry. The interior minister has repeatedly said
that he requested additional funds for Israel’s fire services, but that the
Treasury was not forthcoming.
During a Monday interview on Israel Radio,
Yishai said that calls for his resignation were “a lynching,” with members of
his party saying he had become a target due to his Sephardi
Yishai’s attempts at deflection may, however, have earned him
an unexpected adversary.
Sources close to Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu said that he was upset with Yishai for leaking information that
appeared to incriminate the prime minister in not providing adequate funds to
the fire services, in an effort to clear his own name. Yishai denied that there
was any tension between him and the prime minister.
MKs and ministers
alike also debated whether it was necessary to establish a governmental
commission of inquiry to probe preparedness for the blaze.
Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman sent a letter to Netanyahu on Monday, calling
on him to set up such a commission.
“We need to turn the Carmel fire into
the ‘Second Lebanon War’ of decision-making in the civilian sphere,” Braverman
wrote. “If we don’t pay attention to what occurred and fearlessly investigate
it, then we will not learn the necessary lessons.”
The Labor minister
argued that the country had learned many important lessons from the Second
Lebanon War through the conclusions of the Winograd Committee.
committee like this will establish rule, norms and processes that will ensure
that in other instances, no less important, on the national agenda, we will know
how to govern and prepare ourselves differently,” Braverman said.
critical State Comptroller’s Report on the country’s fire services is expected
to be presented to the Knesset later this week. Although State Comptroller Micha
Lindenstrauss has warned that his report will not include conclusions from the
Carmel fire, government officials have said that they prefer to read the
report’s conclusions before deciding whether a further investigative commission
The Knesset’s State Control Committee, which will be
responsible for holding hearings on the anticipated report, announced on Monday
that it would visit the Carmel region this Sunday to assess the damage.