(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss will conduct a fullscale investigation of
the government’s handling of the Carmel Forest fire, which erupted on December 2
and claimed the lives of 44 victims, he announced on Sunday.
RELATED:Carmel fire bereaved families disrupt PM’s speech
to the state comptroller’s decision, the examination will primarily focus on the
four days of the incident,” his office said in an official announcement. “We
emphasize that other aspects which occurred either before or after the incident
will be examined as required.”
Analysis: A tragedy that was waiting to happen
Lindenstrauss said he would look into the
details surrounding the destruction of a bus carrying dozens of prison service
cadets to Damon Prison to help evacuate prisoners, and the functioning of the
Fire and Rescue Services, the police, Magen David Adom, the army, the Defense
Ministry and the local authorities.
It will also look into the question
of Israel’s aerial firefighting capability, including the element of
The investigation will also focus on the
Finance Ministry, the National Fire-Fighting Commission, which is under the
auspices of the Interior Ministry, and the organization of the firefighting
Last month, Lindenstrauss released an extremely critical report
on the issue of Israel’s firefighting capacity as a follow- up to a report he
had published in the wake of the 2006 Second Lebanon War. The research and
writing of the report was completed months before the outbreak of the Carmel
fire, although Lindenstrauss reworded and toughened some of his conclusions just
before publication as a result of the fire.
Meanwhile, Danny Rozen, the
partner of Haifa police chief Ahuva Tomer, who died trying to extricate cadets
from the burning bus, sued Interior Minister Eli Yishai and the state for
damages, claiming that they were negligent in protecting the population from
fires, such as the one that killed Tomer.
“This lawsuit is aimed at state
officials and office-holders who were irresponsible and left the state and its
citizens exposed to the danger of a fire whose likes had never been seen
before,” he wrote in the lawsuit. “This was criminal neglect which lasted years.
The government ignored and turned a cold shoulder to the basic security needs of
Israel’s citizens to a degree which cried out to heaven.”
Rozen spearheaded a protest during a ceremony at Beit Oren for bereaved families
who lost loved ones in the fire, forcing Interior Minister Eli Yishai to leave
the auditorium where the ceremony was being held.
Rozen announced at the
time that he was launching a campaign to force Yishai, who is ministerially
responsible for the firefighting services, out of office.
The lawsuit is
part of that effort.
Rozen wrote that “he thought seriously about whether
he should file this lawsuit, which is so charged with hard and bitter memories.
In the end, in spite of the desire to repress and forget the traumatic events
and incidents, it was decided to submit the suit to cry out in a loud voice
those cries which the leaders of the country must hear, absorb and act upon. To
our sorrow, and as is well known, they ignored the signs and did
In a related development, the High Court of Justice on Sunday
ordered the government to respond to petitions filed by two watchdog
organizations, Ometz and the Movement for Quality Government, demanding the
establishment of a state commission of inquiry to investigate the government’s
handling of the fire and the events leading up to it.
Ometz’s petition, an independent commission of inquiry is necessary to “look
into the failures which led to the harsh outcome of the incident, to clarify the
failures in the handling of the event in order to determine who is personally
and ministerially responsible for the failures and prevent their
Justice Asher Grunis gave the state until January 20 to
submit its preliminary response to the petitions.