Burned out Prison Service bus from Carmel Fire 370 (R).
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS / Reuters)
The commander of the police’s Northern District, Asst.-Ch. Rony Atia, was
expected to resign or be fired, and other law enforcement officials already have
retired, following severe criticism of the way they handled the December 2010
Carmel Forest fire, Army Radio reported Wednesday, citing unnamed
Ze’ev Even-Chen, a former police Central Region commander and
father of Topaz Even-Chen Klein, who, along with 43 others, was killed in the
fire, has led a public campaign for the dismissal of law enforcement and
political officials who, according to him, mismanaged the
Even-Chen and others have submitted a petition to the High Court
of Justice to remove these officials. The petition is based on, among
other things, a report by then-state comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and
scathing criticism of the law enforcement sector’s state of readiness going into
the crisis, and its management of the crisis once the fire
According to the Army Radio report, Atia was called to a meeting
on Tuesday with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and national
police chief Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino. The two pressured him to announce his
early retirement in order to assist the law enforcement community in moving on
from the incident and ending the bad press it has been receiving.
report also said that one Israel Prisons Service officer had been forced to
retire two months ago; that the police force’s deputy inspector-general will be
retiring early; and that another officer in the police had been removed from his
post following criticism from Even-Chen and others.
Even-Chen has also
called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to fire Interior Minister Eli Yishai
and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
The petition to the High Court was
submitted two weeks to the day after the State Comptroller’s Office released its
report on the fire. The report found glaring failures in the way Yishai and
Steinitz handled the disaster, as well as in their preparation of rescue
services for such a catastrophic event.
The petitioners stated that
Netanyahu and Aharonovitch “have the obligation to use the power given to them
by law and remove these people from their positions and to draw personal
conclusions based on what is written in the State Comptroller’s
The petition adds that the failure to exercise this power would
be an “extreme” oversight. “There is no authority without responsibility,
and no responsibility without anyone being held responsible,” the petition
Even-Chen wrote personal letters to Netanyahu and Aharonovitch
following the disaster – letters he said were not answered, leaving no choice
but to turn to the court.
The petition includes excerpts from the
comptroller’s report that focus not only on the conduct of Steinitz and Yishai,
but also on criticism of a series of police, Prisons Service and fire department
commanders. It calls for Aharonovitch to examine these failures, adding that “in
the moment of truth, at the moment when their professional and leadership
capabilities were put to the most important test of all, the following people,
unfortunately, showed leadership that was rife with failure.”
for the petitioners wrote that their clients “are not seeking revenge. They are
As people who served in the security services for more than a
few years their concern is for the principle of responsibility that has defined
the security services since the founding of the state until
Even-Chen took center stage at a social justice protest in front
of around 10,000 demonstrators in Tel Aviv at the beginning of July. He spoke of
his plans to submit the petition and drew a connection between the failings
detailed in the comptroller’s report and the claims of failed national
leadership made by social justice protestors.
“The disregard for people’s
lives is something that must be stopped and you must make this part of your
protest,” he told the crowd. “Look what happens: No one is responsible. The
finance minister blames the interior minister; the interior minister blames the
finance minister; the Finance Ministry says it’s the Prisons Service; they say
it’s the police or the firefighters. Everyone says, ‘It wasn’t me, it was him.’
It’s one big kindergarten and the prime minister is in charge.”Ben
Hartman contributed to this story.