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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) on Wednesday thanked State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss for his exhaustive report, “which stresses that the shortcomings in the firefighting services are the ongoing fault of all the governments,” and also highlighted Yishai's attempts to obtain more funding over the years. Yishai repeated time and again that as interior minister he is in charge of the firefighting services, but without governmental support, he could not obtain the necessary funds necessary for a reform.
Speaking at a press conference with Fire and Rescue Commissioner Shimon Romach to his side, Yishai noted that the report states the Finance Ministry should not have conditioned allocating funds with the execution of a reform in the fire and rescue services. “You cannot turn the residents into hostages,” he said.
Lindenstrauss: 'Fire readiness falls on Yishai's shoulders'
State Comptroller Report on fire services: ‘Very severe'
Yishai relayed his ongoing efforts to convince the prime minister and finance minister as to the necessity to provide increased funding to the firefighting services. “The Finance Ministry objected, the government didn't approve, and the responsibility falls on the Interior Minister,” he said. “I demanded NIS 672 million, and in the end NIS 100 million was approved, which is tenfold the normal budget for the firefighting services.”
Yishai noted that he raised his demand for NIS 672 million again, “and I hope that the Finance Ministry and government approve it. If not, the responsibility will fall on all of the government.”
“In 2002, I begged the government not to approve the cancellation of the aerial firefighting forces. All the cabinet voted in favor, except for the Shas ministers, as if a religious law was at hand,” Yishai continued.
When asked if he would resign if the legislation wouldn't pass, Yishai said that in such an event, “the entire Israeli government should resign.”
Flanked by two party members Nisim Ze'ev and Avraham Michaeli who entered during the briefing, Yishai also spoke out against the “media lynch” he was subject to after the fire, as well as around his policies on foreign workers. “If I weren't representing clear positions on the foreigners, and if the interior minister were not haredi, people would have been asking – how did you know?” Yishai said. “There was terrible incitement, but we are gazing toward the future. I'm strong, and will keep struggling to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel, and fulfill the state comptroller's report.”
Romach was asked if his presence was a show of support for Yishai, and
responded that since his appointment as head of the fire and rescue
services in June 2010, “never has there been such intensive involvement
of an interior minister in the services, who managed to obtain a budget
ten times any other annual budget for equipping.”
“I'm expressing my support here, the minister's actions are noteworthy. I
know he demanded more funds, and hope that his future demands will be
answered,” Romach added.