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Eli Yishai
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Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
Yuval Steinitz
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Yishai, Steinitz reject Carmel Fire findings
Interior, finance ministers dismiss State comptroller's report on 2010 disaster. Treasury slams findings as 'outright preposterous'; Yishai: If no one had been killed, I would have deserved an medal

Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on Wednesday dismissed the accusations detailed in State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' report on the Carmel Fire of 2010.

 

The fire, which claimed 44 lives, is regarded one of Israel's worst civilian disasters.

 

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The Treasury slammed the findings as "outright groundless and preposterous," while Yishai said: "This is not a harsh report – if no one had been killed, I would have deserved a medal."


"יש לציין לזכותו של ישי שהוא הצליח להביא את מצוקת הכבאות לדיון" (צילום: אקטיבסטילס)

Wreckage of the fire (Photo: Activestills)

 

In the document, which was released on Wednesday afternoon, Lindenstrauss ruled that Steinitz and Yishai must be held accountable for the devastating results of the Carmel Fire, hinting heavily that the two should resign.

  

Yishai however, asserted that the report does hold him personally accountable for the fatal outcome of the fire.

 

"People were under the impression that I lit the match and then blocked the rescue forces with my own body," the minister noted. "Now that the report has been released, everyone understands that this is not the case."

 

The Treasury deflected the criticism as well, branding the report as "extremely unfounded and outright preposterous," further adding that "It threatens Israel's financial stability by making maintaining the (government) budget impossible."


The Carmel Fire (Photo: AFP)

 

Forum 15, an association of 15 large municipalities, expressed support for Steinitz following the release of the report. The group praised Steinitz as "one of the best finance ministers" the country has seen and asserted that cannot be held accountable for prioritizing the State budget in a certain way.

 

"I was there during the fire and after it and I am willing face any official or media outlet and defend Minister Steinitz and his conduct," Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav was quoted as saying in the group's statement. "I have witnessed his decisions and professionalism, and we cannot allow this disaster to be dumped on him."

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was also criticized in the report, said that he would continue to make efforts to remedy the deficiencies found in Israel's emergency and disasters readiness, but noted that some of the problems were "fixed immediately following the fire."

 

He, too, underlined the positive aspects brought forth in the report. "It would have been impossible to successfully extinguish the fire without the firefighting aircrafts that was brought overseas," the prime minister said in the statement.

 

'This matter can't be taken lightly'

Yishai's party, Shas, released a "CliffsNotes version" of the report, which includes partial quotes that present Yishai in a positive light.

 

"We do not claim that the finance or interior ministers are to blame for the deaths of 44 people in the terrible Carmel Fire," the version read. "To say that would be horribly wrong."


אלי ישי ואביו של מישר יוחאי דיין, היום (צילום: אבישג שאר-ישוב) 

Yishai with father of fire victim (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv)

 

Wednesday afternoon saw Minister Yishai turn attention to the fire's victims' families: "My heart is with the bereaved families on this difficult and painful day," he said.

 

"The comptroller's report proves that the demands made by ministers on matters of life and death should not be taken lightly. We must focus now on drawing conclusions that will prevent future disasters."

 

He announced his intention to call a government meeting to discuss the report.


"אסון שכזה יכול היה להתרחש גם אילו היה מערך הכיבוי נמצא בשיא כושרו"  (צילום: AFP)

Carmel Fire (Photo: AFP)

 

"The response I have gotten from firefighters and most of the bereaved families was very touching," he added. "My duty is to fight for them and ensure that the appropriate conclusions are made. It won't bring back their loved ones, but it will prevent other families from experiencing such sorrow and pain in the future."

 

Yishai further stated that Lindenstrauss made a "clear distinction" between the tragedy that claimed 44 lives and the Fire and Rescue Services' emergency readiness.

 

The findings, he said, "Prove that this kind of a disaster could have occurred even if the Fire Department was in top form and equipped with the most advanced gear. The FRS' readiness is entirely unrelated to the decisions that led to the catastrophe.

 

"The comptroller clearly states that during my term an unprecedented effort was made to rehabilitate the Fire and Rescue Services' abilities."

 

Attila Somfalvi, Kobi Nahshoni and Avital Lahave contributed to this report

 

 

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