Eli Yishai at the President's residence 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Lawmakers announced plans to conduct a thorough investigation of the government
response to last week’s snowstorm and present their report to Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu, a joint panel of Knesset Interior Committee and Knesset
Subcommittee for Home Front Preparedness members announced Tuesday.
two committees met in the first of a series of hearings they plan to hold on the
“MKs still see the storm’s damages and it doesn’t make sense that
residents of Jerusalem and other places remain under siege in their homes
without electricity or heat,” Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev
(Likud Beytenu) said. “It seems like there was no body coordinating all aid
activities and repairs to infrastructure.”
Knesset Subcommittee for Home
Front Preparedness chairman Eli Yishai (Shas), who faced criticism for his
handling of the 2010 Carmel Fire when he was interior minister, said the system
did not work properly and citizens of Israel deserve the best
Head of Operations for police, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Bechor, said
Thursday night and Friday was a “nightmare.”
At midnight Thursday, people
began calling for help because their cars were stuck in the snow, and the police
sent all the jeeps it could – some of which were rented in advance in
anticipation of the storm – to the road to Jerusalem to help.
expect such a powerful storm. It was the worst night the police had in recent
years. Police officers ran with babies in their hands,” Bechor
Regev pointed out: “You already knew there was going to be a storm
on Wednesday. Why didn’t you bring heavy equipment to the roads leading to
Jerusalem and Safed in advance? What is the police missing now?” Bechor
responded that the first lesson the police learned is that they should make the
appropriate equipment available ahead of storms.
“Israel has one body
with an expertise on helping the home front, the Home Front Defense Command. Why
didn’t they act?” MK Nachman Shai (Labor) asked.
Home Front Defense
Ministry director-general Dan Ronen said his office is in charge of all national
emergency authorities, but the police are in charge of operative actions during
Ronen added that he called all of the ministry’s workers in
and opened a national emergency center at 2 a.m. Friday.
“The minute the
ministry acted, everyone who needed food or blankets got it,” Ronen
MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) said that “the authorities did their
best, but after four days, some people still can’t leave their homes. People
froze in their cars, a bus stood in the Harel Interchange [outside Mevasseret]
for 11 hours until help came.”
MKs were assigned different areas of
research for the planned report on what lessons the government can learn from
the storm. MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) will investigate the police response,
while MK David Tsur (Hatnua) will look at Home Front Defense. MKs Hanna Swaid
(Hadash), Ya’acov Asher (UTJ) and Hamed Amer (Likud Beytenu) will probe local
government responses, focusing on Arab and haredi towns. MKs Yisrael Eichler
(UTJ) and Rina Frenkel (Yesh Atid) will investigate rescue services, while MKs
Nachman Shai (Labor), David Azoulay (Shas), Jamal Zahalka (Balad) and Uri Maklev
(UTJ) will look into compensation for victims and information given to
In addition, opposition parties plan to table a vote on forming a
Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on the government response to the
Also Tuesday, the Knesset Economics Committee examined how the
Electric Company dealt with the many power outages caused by the
“Last weekend’s storm had an unusual result: Tens of thousands
of families disconnected from electricity for many hours, some even for days,”
Economics Committee chairman Avishay Braverman (Labor) pointed out. “I want to
make sure the response was necessary and that the Electric Company prepared
properly for the difficult weather conditions, but could not prevent the many
Electric Company chairman Yiftach Ron Tal apologized to those
who still don’t have power and said the company is doing all it can to make sure
everyone has electricity.
“At the height of the storm, 60,000 families
lost power and now everyone has electricity except for a few hundred families.
Everyone should get power today,” Tal stated.
The Electric Company is
still in emergency mode, Tal added, and staff is traveling through Jerusalem and
nearby towns to check where there are problems.
Braverman asked why only
50 out of 200 of the Electric Company’s generators were used, to which Tal said
that, in most cases, they couldn’t be installed because the roads were blocked
by snow or because of security concerns.
Tal added that the company
cannot say what it learned from the experience, since it is still taking care of
damage caused by the storm.
As for a proposal to install underground
electric lines, Tal said it would cost billions and that the company would have
to do a cost-benefit analysis. About half of the electric lines are underground,
and it would cost NIS 25-30b. to move the rest of them, an Energy and Water
Ministry representative explained.