Prime Minister Netanyahu
Photo: Shai Vaknin
Netanyahu thanks Erdogan for aid
At emergency Cabinet meeting, prime minister says response to Israel's call for help 'unprecedented'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with other world leaders for sending planes and firefighting equipment to Israel in order to assist the battle against the blaze consuming its northern region.


Netanyahu added that he spoke with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan who "expressed his and his country's condolences to the families of the 41 casualties and Turkey's willingness to help."


"I told Erdogan that we appreciate the major efforts during this time and I am sure that this will be a gateway to improving relations between the two countries", the prime minister said noted.



Netanyahu spoke at a special Cabinet meeting called in the wake of flailing efforts to extinguish the flames. Netanyahu also thanked other world leaders, including Bulgaria's prime minister and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who sent "a very large Russian plane, perhaps the largest of its kind in the world"


"The plane is on its way here, and will arrive in the afternoon," Netanyahu said, also thanking Egypt, Azerbaijan, Spain, Croatia, France, and Jordan for their offers. "I think this constitutes an unprecedented response to our appeal for international aid," he added.


"We are dealing with a disaster of international proportions," Netanyahu said, adding that the government would focus on putting out the flames before attempting to glean any worthwhile conclusions. "During the coming week the Cabinet will debate a plan for purchasing planes," he added.


"We know that 15,000 Israelis were evacuated from their homes and we will take care of them all," he said.


"We will also take care of renovations, rehabilitation, and compensation as well as anything else required to return them to normalcy. We will rehabilitate the Carmel with a national plan."


President Shimon Peres visited Tirat Carmel on Friday and said "I want to thank all the nations that volunteered to send planes. There were some offers we weren't expecting, like Turkey's offer. It is very nice that Prime Minister Erdogan offered aid without it being requested. Especially when taking into account the crisis in Israel-Turkey relations."


The president met and sang Hanukkah songs with the children of Tirat Carmel who were transferred to a safe location away from the fire.


Interior Minister Eli Yishai said before the meeting that he would demand an official investigation into "the failures in Israel's preparation for fires". Yishai, who has under his authority Israel's firefighting forces, said
he would demand a probe of why the current and former governments did not properly equip Israel for such disasters.


Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Friday morning that a criminal investigation will follow the giant blaze in the north. "We will be checking whether certain officials were negligent, whether arson was involved. But we will wait a few days," he said.


Tomer Velmer contributed to this report



First published: 03.12.10, 11:32
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