Cabinet okays NIS 800m. for ‘emergency preparedness’

Sparks fly in cabinet as Yishai asks for double what is allocated for fire services; PM: We're not working [with eye on] the next inquiry.

yishai shalom netanyahu cabinet meeting 311 (photo credit: Haim Tzach)
yishai shalom netanyahu cabinet meeting 311
(photo credit: Haim Tzach)
The Carmel Forest fire last month continued to cast a pall over the government Sunday, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu chastising Interior Minister Eli Yishai for making unrealistic demands in an effort to cover his flank.
After Yishai criticized the government’s plan to allocate NIS 350 million to revamp the country’s fire services, asking for double that amount, Netanyahu reportedly told him, “I asked to stop sending me, how do we say in diplomatic language, ‘letters to cover oneself.’ It is preferable not to send more than one a day, and not to ask for more than a billion shekels.”
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The cabinet approved NIS 800m. for emergency preparedness.
Yishai recently sent a letter to Netanyahu deriding the state of the country’s fire services, and saying that the conclusions of the next committee of inquiry were already known. Netanyahu reportedly told him in the cabinet that “we are not working [with an eye on] the next commission of inquiry.”
Kadima hurried to pounce on the fireworks inside the cabinet, issuing a statement saying Netanyahu had lost control over his ministers.
“This is how a government looks on its last leg,” the statement said.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu’s comments were in regard to a wide array of budgetary requests from government ministers over the last month with requests for billions of shekels to deal with hypothetical emergencies.
Netanyahu, according to the statement, said in the cabinet that the state must set priorities and cannot deal with endless requests.
The cabinet approved a NIS 800m. proposal Sunday for home front emergency preparedness and disasters.
NIS 350m. of this will be budgeted to establish an upgraded national fire service and aerial fire-fighting force, and another NIS 350m. will be allocated to earthquake preparedness and rehabilitating the Home Front Command’s firefighting capabilities.
The allocation for earthquake preparedness will also go toward setting up emergency centers in the local councils, a communications network for emergency bodies and acquiring equipment for the evacuation of 400,000 people.
The cabinet allocated another NIS 100m. as an emergency supplement where needed.
The government decision also mandated that the new fire service will be part of the Public Security Ministry, and that the earthquake emergency services will come under the purview of Minister- without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, who is a geologist.
Netanyahu told the cabinet that he gave directions to have an aerial firefighting force operable within a few months.
“In the first stage, we will lease planes. In the second stage, we will buy planes. I spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper last Friday regarding possible bilateral arrangements to purchase Canadian planes, which are the best in the world for this kind of mission.,” he said.
The cost of leasing the planes for two years will be NIS 100m., money that is coming out of the NIS 350m. allocated for the firefighting services.