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The man in charge – Minister Yishai Photo: Tsafrir Abayov
The man in charge – Minister Yishai Photo: Tsafrir Abayov

The guilty party

Op-ed: Interior Minister Yishai responsible for grim state of Israel's firefighting force

Alex Fishman
Published: 12.03.10, 21:24 / Israel Opinion

Imagine that a missile barrage landed Thursday on the Carmel, in central Israel, or in the Galilee region, producing fires in five different sites. What state would this country be in then?


Thursday's catastrophe is merely an example of the helplessness of the State of Israel's emergency services. The weakest link within this establishment is the fire department


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On Thursday, Israel's firefighting force collapsed in the face of a fire storm. It was indeed spreading over a very large area, but in only one region. What would have we done in the face of dozens and hundreds of missiles producing fire storms in various regions nationwide, including urban areas with high-rises? Who in Israel is prepared to cope with such scenario?


The defense establishment has been talking nonsense for years now about home front preparations for a missile attack, yet on Thursday we got the real answer: We don't really have a national firefighting force.


What we have is some brave people risking their lives, but we also have people who are turning these brave souls into a laughing stock with improper equipment and standards only familiar in the Third World.


And it's not just the equipment. The operations of Israel's firefighting force are odd, to say the least. The firefighting commissioner wanted the help of all fire departments nationwide, but he is not their boss. Firefighters in Israel are under the jurisdiction of regional councils and municipalities. Had they not volunteered to help, all we could do would be to plead for divine help.


Yet this failure has an address. This person disappeared from the public eye Thursday, and this was no coincidence. He is intimately familiar with the firefighting force's grim state. His name is Eli Yishai and he is the interior minister, who holds the ministerial responsibility for the failure. Had Yishai shown the same kind of care for Shas' schools and its yeshiva students, Rabbi Ovadia would have fired him a while ago.


Some six months ago, Minister Yishai received the state comptroller's draft report on the nation's firefighting services. The report will be published within days. If Yishai remains in his post after this report's publications, the notion of ministerial responsibility would lose its meaning.


By the way, in the wake of the new draft report, the government decided to pour tens of millions of shekels in order to improve the collapsing firefighting services. Yet where's the money? And where's the equipment? Ask the bureaucrats.


On Thursday, we saw a pathetic government attempt to cope with this unforgivable failure. We deserve security, but we don't have it.



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