(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Monday said that calls for his resignation were "a lynching," with members of his party saying he has become a target due to his Sephardi heritage, Israel Radio reported.
RELATED:Yishai: Ministry begged for more fire rescue fundsPMO: Of all gov'ts, Netanyahu has given most to fire department
Yishai said that while the fires were burning in the Carmel he preferred not to respond to the criticism, however now that the fires have been extinguished he plans to react in the coming days.
Yishai told Israel Radio that during his time as interior minister, NIS 100 million were allocated to the fire system, but said it is not a large enough sum. He said that the fire services are unprepared, not for a normal situation and especially not for an emergency.
The Shas head added that in 2002, the fire services asked the government to reinstate the Air Force's fire-fighting activities. Yishai claimed that the Shas ministers in the government at the time were alone in supporting the initiative.
The comments came after a Jerusalem Post
report that Yishai refused fire truck donations from a US Christian group
due to religious ideology.
While Yishai claimed the "lynching" is coming from a small group of media outlets, calls for his resignation came from all directions.
Senior Labor Party members called for his resignation from his post Sunday night.
"The poor performance in fire and rescue adds to the series of oversights and blind statements made on the part of Yishai. The inevitable conclusion is that it is incumbent upon him to assume responsibility and resign from his position," the party said in statement reported by Army Radio.
On Saturday night the Ometz good governance watchdog called on Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to fire Yishai because of his “ministerial
responsibility for the failures.” Ometz claimed that the State
Comptroller’s Office had recently given the Interior Ministry a draft
report pointing out the shortcomings in the Fire Service, which, the
organization said, explicitly warned that the service would be
hard-pressed in times of national disaster.
The ministry, Ometz complained, did not translate the report into immediate action, nor into demands for an increased budget.
Yishai, in turn, redirected the criticism toward a less-obvious culprit: former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
During an emergency cabinet meeting held in Tel Aviv on Friday, Yishai
demanded that a governmental investigative commission be set up to
examine the disaster. He cited years of neglect leading to the current
situation and said that in 2001, Sharon’s government voted to eliminate
air support for firefighting.