Shas rebukes members who faulted police for fire deaths

MKs from party claim Haifa police chief more responsible for Carmel fire bus tragedy than Eli Yishai.

Bus in Carmel fire 311 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Bus in Carmel fire 311
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Dragging the recriminations that have followed last month’s Carmel fire to new depths, some Shas Party members, including MK Nissim Ze’ev, implied on Thursday that Haifa Police chief Ahuva Tomer, who died in the blaze, bore greater responsibility than Shas’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai for the deaths of the prison guards whose bus was caught in the inferno.
The Shas Party members told various media outlets that the blame for the deaths of the blaze’s 44 victims lay primarily with those who allowed the Prisons Service bus to climb the hill where it became stuck and was engulfed in flames.
RELATED:Ahuva Tomer: Chief who refused to stay in the officeHeroism for ‘Everyman’
Ze’ev, who did not refer to Tomer by name, told Ynet that “the address is the person who brought the bus into the range of the fire,” by allowing it along the route toward Kibbutz Beit Oren and Damon prison. All the fire’s victims died either in the bus or, like Tomer, trying to save those trapped at the scene.
The Shas criticism of Tomer – from which others in the party quickly dissociated themselves – came soon after her partner, Danny Rozen, told Israel Radio that he would sue Yishai for his role in the tragedy.
“Eli Yishai has to pay,” Rozen said. “I will do whatever I can so he pays out of his own pocket.”
At Wednesday’s state ceremony to honor the victims of the fire, Rozen demanded that Yishai leave the event.
“This man has no shame,” he declared. “Either he leaves or I leave.”
Yishai, who did leave, said on Thursday, “In spite of the sad, unnecessary events of last night, I’m reminded of the edict, ‘He who is wise, will be silent at this point in time.’” Tomer died in Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center days after suffering burns over her entire body while attempting to rescue those trapped in the bus.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have spoken at such a ceremony,” Rozen said on Thursday, “but I couldn’t watch Yishai walk into the hall, when the state comptroller said he was personally and ministerially responsible [for the fire]. I think he shouldn’t be allowed to sit with the mourning families and hug people.”
He added, “I felt that Yishai not only lacked respect for us, but for all citizens of Israel.
Everyone who read the state comptroller’s report knows that this man can’t continue behaving as he has up until now.”
Rozen explained that he had not planned to make a scene, and that the invitation to the ceremony had not indicated that Yishai would be there.
“The invitation said the prime minister, [President Shimon] Peres, the Knesset speaker – people I respect – would be at the ceremony. Yishai forced himself into the ceremony, with his lack of shame,” he said.
“He didn’t care,” Rozen went on. “Even when I said, ‘Sir, get out of here,’ he didn’t leave until the chief rabbis told him to. It’s absurd that 44 mourning families don’t influence him, but when the rabbis tell him, he leaves. It’s an embarrassment to the State of Israel that a man like this is in our government.”
Shas spokesman Ro’i Lahmanovitch issued a statement clarifying that those members of the party who had leveled blame at Tomer were representing their own opinions and not those of the party.
Shas MK David Azoulay said earlier on Thursday that Yishai did not intend to resign following the protest by Rozen and other bereaved family members. In an interview with Army Radio, Azoulay said that “he came to console the families [at the ceremony], and he did not expect such a harsh reception.
“When I heard about what happened to Yishai, I was torn.
On the one hand, I understand the pain of the families who are grieving, but on the other hand, it hurt me to see the shame and pain they caused the leader of the [Shas] party,” Azoulay said.
“The general public knows that Eli Yishai is one of many ministers who worked so hard for the firefighting services.”
Channel 2 reported on Thursday night that security for Yishai had been increased.
Meanwhile, the family of Elad Riven, the 16-year-old volunteer firefighter killed in the Carmel fire, visited Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef together with Yishai on Thursday.
Yishai was scheduled to bring more of the bereaved families to visit Yosef in the coming days.