Michael Eitan .
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Government Services Minister Michael Eitan became the first cabinet member to
call for a full inquiry into the Carmel fire on Sunday.
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He told the
cabinet that a clause calling for an investigation should be included in the
decision being approved by the ministers.
Eitan said a further
investigation by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, which Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu called for, was insufficient and that only a proper probe
could prevent future conflagrations by revealing why past recommendations were
“We have an obligation to investigate this tragedy and
its causes in order to learn lessons from it,” Eitan said. “The public wants an
objective assessment that will probe deeply, and it is our obligation to enable
such a report to be published.”
Eitan stopped short of calling for a
formal commission of inquiry. He appeared to lament Interior Minister Eli
Yishai’s decision not to resign following the blunder in not providing resources
needed by the firefighters, which is in Yishai’s jurisdiction.
does not have a tradition of ministerial responsibility,” he said. “We have a
tradition of letting less good things like commissions of inquiry and courts do
No other minister hinted publicly that Yishai should quit, but
an anonymous minister was quoted as saying that Yishai “knew how to fight for
budgets for the haredim and against foreign workers, and if he would have fought
with the same emotion for the firefighters, we might not be in this situation
Calls to fire Yishai came instead from the Movement for Quality
Government, which wrote Netanyahu threatening legal action if he did not remove
Yishai from his post.
“Only removing the interior minister or him
quitting can restore the public’s faith in the government that was destroyed in
the fire and guarantee norms or good governance and accountability,” the
movement wrote Netanyahu.
Ze’ev Even-Hen, a former police commander,
mocked Yishai’s call for a commission of inquiry in his speech at the funeral of
his daughter Topaz, who was one of the Prisons Service cadets killed in the
“One thing I promise you is that I will make sure that everyone who
bears responsibility for this fiasco will pay for it,” Even-Hen said by her
grave. “They won’t be able to flee via commissions of inquiry that they
themselves form. I will make sure for you and your friends that the proper
explanations will be given. This is the second Yom Kippur War-style fiasco in
this country and I will make sure that there will not be a third.”
defended himself on his way into Sunday’s cabinet meeting, saying that a
commission of inquiry would be able to find who was really to blame. He told
reporters that on the day he took office, he wrote the prime minister and
finance minister demanding half a billion shekels for staff and gear for the
fire service but only NIS 100 million was allocated.
Sources close to
Yishai said that during the seven years between his first term as interior
minister that ended in 2002 and his return to the ministry, not a single agora
was added to the budget of the firefighters. They also lamented that funding was
cut for fire-fighting planes.
Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit, who was Yishai’s
predecessor at the Interior Ministry, said he tried to privatize the Fire and
Rescue Service as a separate authority and nearly succeeded before his
government fell apart. He complained that Yishai did not complete the
Ministers from Labor and Likud came to Yishai’s
Minorities Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor) said “this
is not the time to lop off heads” while the dead were still being
“The calls to blame someone have come too early,” Culture and
Sports Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) said. “A natural disaster occurred, and now
is the time to look into what happened and ponder it. There is no doubt that
there was a fiasco, but you cannot blame the government, which has only been in
power for a year and a half.
We should wait and not hurry to point
fingers at one person or another.”