Comptroller accepts PM's request to probe Carmel fire

Knesset delays decision on official probe; “Those responsible for the disaster are trying to prevent an investigative committee," Livni says.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
December 14, 2010 20:25
2 minute read.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss

311_Micha Lindenstrauss. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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While the Knesset delayed a decision on the future of an official probe into the Carmel fire, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attempted to stave off criticism Tuesday by calling on State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to conduct an investigation into the incidents surrounding the blaze that killed 43.

Lindenstraus accepted Netanyahu's request on Tuesday to investigate the Carmel Fire. Netanyahu made the request in a meeting he convened in his office of the ministerial committee on governmental oversight, which is headed by Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman.

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Netanyahu's office said Lindenstraus would submit his report to the government as soon as possible within the next four months. The ministerial committee gave relevant government ministries three months to report to Lindenstraus about changes they were making to fix problems and inadequacies that were revealed in his report last week about the deficiencies in Israel's fire service.

State Control Committee Chairman MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said that in another two weeks, Netanyahu would be asked to attend a hearing of his committee in order to present a timetable for the completion of all of the changes to the Fire and Rescue Services recommended by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.

Faced with a majority in his committee opposing his proposal to establish a ministerial investigative committee, Hasson (Kadima) announced Tuesday afternoon that he would delay the vote on the proposal until a later date. Following over four hours of heated debate within the committee, which was attended by Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Lindenstrauss, Hasson announced that the vote on the proposal would be held at some point during a session of the committee within a week from Tuesday’s meeting.

Hasson said that the delay in the vote was in protest of changes to the committee’s composition made by the House Committee – changes that would ensure that the coalition held a strong majority to block the probe.

On Monday, the House Committee announced that it was appointing regular stand-ins for committee members. Should MK Uri Ariel (National Union) be absent from a vote, he would be replaced by Coalition Chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud). This “unprecedented situation”, Hasson complained, would further shift the balance in the committee in favor of the coalition.



Committee officials emphasized Tuesday that the vote could be held at short notice at any point during any meeting of the committee in the coming week.

Meanwhile, at the Galilee Congress in Bet She’an, Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni blasted the situation in the committee. “We are witnesses to a situation in which those responsible for the disaster are trying to prevent an investigative committee, because, God forbid, such a committee will determine who is responsible,” attacked Livni.

“If we determined in advance the division of responsibility in Israel, then maybe we could reach a state in which those who are responsible also pay the price through leaving their positions as soon as it is apparent that there has been a catastrophe such as we witnessed,” Livni added, reiterating calls made last week for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s resignation.

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