PM thanks foreign leaders for help in Carmel blaze

Int'l fire-fighting planes to stop arriving as flames brought under control; there is no shame in asking our friends for help, Netanyahu says during cabinet meeting.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
December 5, 2010 11:39
3 minute read.
PM Netanyahu visiting the Carmel

Netanyahu sad Carmel 311. (photo credit: Guy Assayag)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stopped foreign fire-fighting planes from arriving in Israel Sunday afternoon, as the forces already in the air brought the Carmel blaze under control.

At the weekly cabinet meeting, which was held in solidarity in Tirat Carmel, he thanked the many heads of state who have offered Israel assistance over the last four days.

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OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan told the cabinet that out of the 35 firefighting planes that flew over the flames on Sunday, 24 were from abroad, including the US supertanker that can carry 80,000 liters of water.

In the last few days, he said, there have been 409 such flights over the blaze.

Netanyahu continued to defend the need to call for international assistance.

“It must be understood that this is an entirely different kind of war. [We are] not dealing with regular fires; therefore, we must utilize various measures here which are different from those that are normally used,” he said.

He said he had sought assistance from 30 countries.

“The firefighters are doing holy work, but it must be understood that this kind of wildfire can only be defeated and extinguished from the air,” said Netanyahu.

Massive forest fires are different from routine fires, he said, and the only way to deal with them is with the help of local and international forces.

When fires raged out of control in California, the US sought help from eight countries, Netanyahu said.

The US “neither hesitated nor was ashamed to request this assistance, including from countries from which we have made similar requests. In last summer’s massive wildfire in Russia, Russia neither hesitated nor was ashamed to request assistance from Ukraine and from other countries. We also did not hesitate, nor were we ashamed, in requesting such assistance. This is what we did and it has led to results,” said Netanyahu.

He reiterated his call to establish a special local aerial fire-fighting force.

But he cautioned, “Even if we had such a force, and we are working on it, it will not always free us of the need to mobilize international support, but it would give us the possibility of bringing an aerial ‘cup of water’ to fires.”

Still, in spite of his defense of Israel’s need to galvanize international support, Netanyahu has asked the state comptroller to investigate Israel’s preparedness for and treatment of the Carmel blaze. The State Comptroller’s Office was already investigating Israel’s fire-fighting capacity, and Netanyahu has asked it to include the Carmel blaze in that report.

Speaking to Channel 2 on Sunday night, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said he had no intention of delaying the publication of his report to include the current fire and added it would be submitted by the end of the week.

Addressing the bereaved families of the prison guards who were killed on Thursday when their bus caught fire, Netanyahu said, “Our hearts go out to the families who are laying to rest their loved ones.

The entire nation identifies with your pain and with the heroism of those who perished.”

He also thanked Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Foreign Ministry in general, National Security Council chairman Uzi Arad, the firefighters, police, soldiers, Magen David Adom and ZAKA rescue and recovery organization personnel, municipality employees and other volunteer groups.

“There has been a general mobilization of the entire nation in a display of mutual responsibility at this crucial time,” Netanyahu said.

After the cabinet meeting Netanyahu met with members of the Druse village Usfiya, some of whose residents were among the 41 dead.

He said that here on this hill, Druse, Muslims, Christians and Jews all lived together in the shade of the same trees and were working to ensure a future for everyone.

“I know that in this battle you lost sons from the Druse community who were buried today alongside their fellow Jews. I want to express my condolences to those families,” the prime minister said.


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