Israeli leaders criticized over deadly 2010 fire (REUTERS) Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Louise Ireland JERSALEM, ISRAEL 06/20/12 10:35am EDT)
Reuters News Service
Reuters News Service Articles-Index-Top
(Reuters) - Israeli leaders were sharply criticized in a government
watchdog´s report on Wednesday into emergency services´ lack of
preparedness for a 2010 forest fire that killed 44 people, but there
were no calls for dismissal.
The fire, the deadliest in Israel´s history, raced through the Carmel
hills near the northern city of Haifa and blazed for more than three
days before it was extinguished, largely with the help of foreign
Most of the dead were prison guards who were sent to evacuate a jail
in the area and whose bus was enveloped by flames on a forest road.
In his report, state auditor Micha Lindenstrauss accused Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu´s government and previous administrations
of having "turned a blind eye" to the danger of national disasters by
underfunding the fire brigade.
Lindenstrauss said only a minimal amount of fire retardant had been
stockpiled nationally before the Carmel blaze and the number of
firefighters and fire engines with long ladders per capita had been
far below international levels.
He said Netanyahu, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Finance Minister
Yuval Steinitz and Public Security Minister Yitzhak
Aharonovitch "bore responsibility for the shortcomings and failures
exposed by the fire".
Lindenstrauss singled out Yishai and Steinitz for "special
responsibility" because the Interior Ministry oversaw the fire
brigade, while the finance minister largely controlled its funding.
Netanyahu and the others, the report said, "had been aware of the
sorry state of the fire brigade and emergency services", but
additional money had not been allocated in time.
The report had been highly anticipated in Israel, amid speculation
that Yishai, a member of Shas, a key partner in Netanyahu´s governing
coalition, could face calls to step down.
But refraining from recommending any action against government
leaders, Lindenstrauss said the findings had been made available to
Israel´s attorney-general, who could choose to examine whether any
legal steps should be taken.
Responding to the report, a statement issued by Netanyahu´s office
said that since the Carmel disaster, funding for fire services had
been boosted significantly and a fire-fighting air squadron
Last week, a report by Lindenstrauss into a deadly Israeli raid on a
Gaza-bound Turkish ship in 2010 criticized Netanyahu over what he
said was the prime minister´s failure to hold "orderly" consultations
with security officials and cabinet ministers before ordering the
operation to go ahead. (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 06/20/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY