Netanyahu serious with flag 311 ap.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Saying it was time to move from putting out the Carmel fire – which had been
accomplished – to rehabilitating those damaged by it, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu appointed Netanya Mayor Miriam Fierberg on Monday as head of a team
charged with ensuring that life for those harmed by the fire would return to
normal “as soon as possible.”
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Earlier in the day, Netanyahu announced
that families whose homes were destroyed in the fire and cannot return home
within the next month will receive temporary compensation of NIS 2,500 per
person to purchase basic necessities, such as clothes and school books in the
The prime minister, who has taken a highly public role in
dealing with the crisis since it broke out Thursday afternoon, said at a press
conference in his office on Monday evening that the goal was to make the
rehabilitation process “as short as possible.”
Netanyahu said he hoped
that the rehabilitation stage can be cut to “days and weeks.
Part of the
process is connected to building houses, and that will take time, but we will
work in every way possible.”
Netanyahu tiptoed around the question of
whether he would support the creation of a government inquiry committee, saying,
“I am not dealing with blame, but rather with results, saving lives, and now
Netanyahu said that the country’s firefighting services
had been neglected for dozens of years, a fact that has already been established
by numerous different committees.
“What is missing is not conclusions,
but implementation,” he said, adding that his government began implementing the
results of some of those committees and last year allocated an additional NIS
100 million to the firefighting budget.
Netanyahu said that the
government understood that it was imperative to form a national firefighting
service, and had already begun working to set that up as well. He also said that
back in August he began working on a plan to upgrade the country’s aerial
“We started to do these things before the
tragedy,” he said. “The tragedy hit, and now we are speeding them up.”
the meeting earlier in the day with the directors-general of the various
ministries, Netanyahu enumerated three central missions facing the country in
the aftermath of the fire: “to return home the people who were evacuated and to
care for those who were harmed; to rebuild those homes which were destroyed and
restore infrastructure; and to assure the rehabilitation of Mount
“Two of these missions are immediate,” he said. “And when I say
immediate, I do not mean months or years, as was the case with the Gaza Strip
We want a different type of treatment here – very quick and
very efficient. In order to do this, we must think ‘outside of the box.’ That
means that most of the bureaucratic definitions must be reexamined, and if
necessary, put to the wayside.”
It is estimated that some 250 homes were
destroyed in the fire, which killed 42 people so far. Houses and other
structures in Kibbutz Beit Oren and the Yemin Orde Youth Village, as well as in
the nearby artists’ village of Ein Hod were destroyed.
On Sunday, the
cabinet approved an emergency aid package of some NIS 60 million for the
In addition to the rebuilding and rehabilitation of
the physical landscape, Netanyahu also instructed the Construction and Housing
Ministry to provide mobile homes for those who are now homeless and asked the
Welfare and Social Services Ministry to boost the social welfare network in the
According to some media reports, officials in the Treasury
have expressed concern over the monetary compensation the prime minister hopes
to provide victims of the fire, believing that compensating individuals without
fire insurance might encourage people not to take out insurance in the future on
the assumption that the state will always come to their aid.
Even as the
government was coming under harsh domestic criticism for being unprepared to
deal with such a fire, in Lebanon, The Daily Star newspaper looked on jealously
at how the country sprang into action.
In an editorial titled “Leaders
idle as Lebanon burns,” the paper – saying that there are currently 120 separate
blazes in that country – wrote that while in Israel the entire country mobilized
to fight the threat of the Carmel blaze, “in Lebanon, most of our politicians
seemed to be enjoying their weekend.
“In Israel, people were arrested for
allegedly starting the blaze. In Lebanon, by the time someone is arrested for
arson, all of the country’s green space might be gone.
“In Israel, there
are calls for the resignation of top politicians.
In Lebanon, the
clergymen pray [for rain].”