Netanyahu appoints team for Carmel rehabilitation

PM sidesteps gov’t inquiry questions, says past recommendations need to be implemented; Netanya Mayor Fierberg appointed head of team.

By
December 6, 2010 18:42
4 minute read.
Netanyahu speaks in Tirat Carmel, Sunday

Netanyahu serious with flag 311 ap. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Saying it was time to move from putting out the Carmel fire – which had been accomplished – to rehabilitating those damaged by it, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed Netanya Mayor Miriam Fierberg on Monday as head of a team charged with ensuring that life for those harmed by the fire would return to normal “as soon as possible.”

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu announced that families whose homes were destroyed in the fire and cannot return home within the next month will receive temporary compensation of NIS 2,500 per person to purchase basic necessities, such as clothes and school books in the immediate days.

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The prime minister, who has taken a highly public role in dealing with the crisis since it broke out Thursday afternoon, said at a press conference in his office on Monday evening that the goal was to make the rehabilitation process “as short as possible.”

Netanyahu said he hoped that the rehabilitation stage can be cut to “days and weeks.

Part of the process is connected to building houses, and that will take time, but we will work in every way possible.”

Netanyahu tiptoed around the question of whether he would support the creation of a government inquiry committee, saying, “I am not dealing with blame, but rather with results, saving lives, and now rehabilitation.”

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Netanyahu said that the country’s firefighting services had been neglected for dozens of years, a fact that has already been established by numerous different committees.

“What is missing is not conclusions, but implementation,” he said, adding that his government began implementing the results of some of those committees and last year allocated an additional NIS 100 million to the firefighting budget.

Netanyahu said that the government understood that it was imperative to form a national firefighting service, and had already begun working to set that up as well. He also said that back in August he began working on a plan to upgrade the country’s aerial firefighting capacity.

“We started to do these things before the tragedy,” he said. “The tragedy hit, and now we are speeding them up.”

At the meeting earlier in the day with the directors-general of the various ministries, Netanyahu enumerated three central missions facing the country in the aftermath of the fire: “to return home the people who were evacuated and to care for those who were harmed; to rebuild those homes which were destroyed and restore infrastructure; and to assure the rehabilitation of Mount Carmel.”

“Two of these missions are immediate,” he said. “And when I say immediate, I do not mean months or years, as was the case with the Gaza Strip settlements.

We want a different type of treatment here – very quick and very efficient. In order to do this, we must think ‘outside of the box.’ That means that most of the bureaucratic definitions must be reexamined, and if necessary, put to the wayside.”

It is estimated that some 250 homes were destroyed in the fire, which killed 42 people so far. Houses and other structures in Kibbutz Beit Oren and the Yemin Orde Youth Village, as well as in the nearby artists’ village of Ein Hod were destroyed.

On Sunday, the cabinet approved an emergency aid package of some NIS 60 million for the affected communities.

In addition to the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the physical landscape, Netanyahu also instructed the Construction and Housing Ministry to provide mobile homes for those who are now homeless and asked the Welfare and Social Services Ministry to boost the social welfare network in the damaged areas.

According to some media reports, officials in the Treasury have expressed concern over the monetary compensation the prime minister hopes to provide victims of the fire, believing that compensating individuals without fire insurance might encourage people not to take out insurance in the future on the assumption that the state will always come to their aid.

Even as the government was coming under harsh domestic criticism for being unprepared to deal with such a fire, in Lebanon, The Daily Star newspaper looked on jealously at how the country sprang into action.

In an editorial titled “Leaders idle as Lebanon burns,” the paper – saying that there are currently 120 separate blazes in that country – wrote that while in Israel the entire country mobilized to fight the threat of the Carmel blaze, “in Lebanon, most of our politicians seemed to be enjoying their weekend.

“In Israel, people were arrested for allegedly starting the blaze. In Lebanon, by the time someone is arrested for arson, all of the country’s green space might be gone.

“In Israel, there are calls for the resignation of top politicians.

In Lebanon, the clergymen pray [for rain].”

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