Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Monday and asked him to look into an alternative method of probing the Carmel fire disaster over a state commission of inquiry.
At this point Yishai has not changed his mind and continues to insist on the highest ranking committee possible to probe the disaster.
Netanyahu claims that a state inquiry committee will not be beneficial and said that one must now focus on fixing the present situation. Talking to Yishai, he said he does not object to another method of inquiry which would point to those responsible for the dire state of the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services.
Senior government ministers estimated Monday that an inquiry commission will not be established and that Netanyahu will use the state comptroller report on the Fire Services which is slated to be issued on Wednesday instead. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has aligned himself with Netanyahu on the matter and said there was no need for a commission of inquiry.
However, things are not that simple. Apart from the government, the Knesset's State Control Committee also has the power to appoint a state inquiry commission based on the state comptroller's findings. The coalition claims that Netanyahu is likely to land a majority of Knesset members to oppose a proposal which may be submitted by committee chairman MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima).
Yishai has fended off any criticism of his conduct as the minister in charge of the Fire Services which have been severely neglected throughout the years. At the weekly cabinet, meeting the interior minister said that the "commission of inquiry will investigate the events and find the true culprits."
Yishai told Ynet Monday that he has not changed his mind regarding a commission of inquiry and that his position will not change in the future. He noted he had met with the prime minister and had spoken to him on the phone during the course of the day and that their conversation only discussed bureaucratic procedures for the restoration of the Carmel communities.
Funds never transfered
Meanwhile, officials continue to lay blame on each other for the failure to restore the Fire Services. A series of documents recently released suggest that the government, which prides itself on allotting firefighters with NIS 100 million ($ 27.64 million) did so only after the state comptroller announced he was investigating the matter and has harsh findings.
Most of the funds were never transferred. It is claimed this was due to a budget crisis at the Interior Ministry which was meant to provide some NIS 35 million ($9.67 million) and at the local authorities which were slated to participate in the funding.
Yishai toured Usfiya after the fire was extinguished and stressed he has no intentions of accepting calls for his resignation. "It's not the residents who say it, but the media that is lynching me."
He also rejected claims whereby he delayed proposals for donations to firefighting forces from Christian groups, saying: "This is another example of the lynch being performed on me. For years I have been working on the firefighting trucks budget and the public knows this."
The minister chose to lay blame on his predecessors for the present situation: Foreign interior ministers Avraham Poraz, Haim Ramon and Ophir Pines. He also pointed a finger at Finance Ministry officials.
Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report
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