Firefighter watches water-dropping plane 311 (R).
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
The firefighting squadron that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu established to
prevent a recurrence of the December 2010 Carmel Forest fire is ineffective and
could potentially cause safety issues, a report compiled by the main
investigator at the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) found.
findings came a day after State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss released his
report on the Carmel fire, criticizing fire authorities as well as the political
echelon for their handling of the disaster, in which 44 people were
“Pilot training, maintenance and assessment of performance are
below international standards,” the report said of the squadron that Netanyahu
purchased with great fanfare for NIS 200 million.
The prime minister
likely had the squadron in mind when he responded to the comptroller’s report
that some of the problems revealed were already fixed.
representing bereaved families wrote to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on
Thursday that Netanyahu cannot get away with letting Interior Minister Eli
Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz maintain their jobs following the
“special responsibility” Lindenstrauss attributed to them for the
Attorney Moshe Shahal, a former public security minister, wrote to
Weinstein and Netanyahu on behalf of the father and husband of Topaz Even-Chen
Klein, who was killed in the fire. Her father, Ze’ev Even-Chen, is former police
central region commander and her husband, Amit Klein, is a
Shahal warned Netanyahu that if Yishai and Steinitz were not
removed from their posts by the end of the month, he would petition the High
Court of Justice to do so. The attorney said he wanted to file the lawsuit by
mid-July, because the Court is going on recess.
“The blunders revealed by
the report are harsh and the failures are unfathomable,” Shahal wrote. “The term
‘helplessness’ was used to describe the ministers’ functioning in the report and
their helplessness screams for significant, determined and immediate action. The
findings of the report cannot remain only on paper.”
Even-Chen called upon the prime minister to “act like a leader, not a
politician,” by firing Steinitz and Yishai. He blasted Steinitz’s response to
the report – who called it delusional – and Yishai for having said he deserved a
badge of honor for his handling of Israel’s firefighting services.
of the finance and interior ministers defended them and professed their
innocence. Dozens of professors signed a letter praising Steinitz and bashing
the report, including Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert “Yisrael” Aumann and
the heads of the Israel Democracy Institute, Arik Carmon and Yedidia
While Yishai was careful not to criticize Lindenstrauss, Shas
newspaper Yom Leyom slammed him in this weekend’s edition. The lead headline of
the paper was, “The report is positive, the comptroller negative.”
Leyom emphasized anything positive written in the report about Yishai,
especially Lindenstrauss’s statement that “Yishai succeeded where other did not
succeed.” The paper left out most of the negative content the comptroller had
written about the interior minister.
Commenting on the report, President
Shimon Peres said Thursday that Israel should not dwell on its past failures,
and instead concentrate on its many successes. Jerusalem Post staff contributed
to this report.