Evading responsibility, avoiding tough questions: Interior Minister Eli Yishai was scheduled to deliver a speech Tuesday evening at a local authority convention dealing with national disasters, but didn't show up.
The minister, who has been accused of culpability for the Carmel blaze disaster, decided to skip the conference, attended by some of Israel's top officials, without informing anyone.
Event moderator Alex Ansky said Yishai decided not to arrive at the conference for unknown reasons and added that "if anyone has other information, talk to me."
A senior source claimed that "the interior minister chickened out at the last moment. The president, finance minister and prime minister are all taking part in the event, and only the interior minister is not there for a conference that has to do with an area under his jurisdiction."
"He's petrified by the state comptroller's report," the source said.
This marked the first time in 10 years that the interior minister did not show up at the annual conference.
Aide: Minister is busy these days
Officials at Yisha's office confirmed that the minister changed his plans after already being en route to the conference, instead heading to Jerusalem for a meeting.
"Naturally, in the days following the disaster, he takes part in discussions and meetings all the time," one of the minister's aides said. "We don't know if ultimately he'll decided to appear at the conference or not."
Later, the interior minister's office stated that Yishai cancelled his appearance because he attended a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, and then participated in an Interior Ministry meeting. According to the statement, due to the fact that the minister had made a commitment to light candles at the Kotel with children, he decided to cancel his attendance at the national disaster event.
However, Ynet later found that the minister did not take part in the candle-lighting ceremony and informed organizers as early as midday that he won’t be arriving. His media advisor took responsibility for the gaffe, claiming that he was not aware that that minister canceled his appearance at the ceremony and therefore provided a false explanation.
Following Yishai's mysterious disappearance, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz ended up taking the podium earlier than planned and delivering a speech at the conference, dedicated to coping with national disasters in the future.
The disastrous blaze in northern Israel highlighted the difficulties faced by Israel in contending with natural disasters, including outdated equipment and manpower shortage, all contributing to the deadliest fire in the country's history. Tuesday's conference brought together senior politicians, academicians, and business leaders to discuss Israel's approach to dealing with such disasters.
Speaking at the event, President Shimon Peres praised security and rescue forces for their work during the blaze.
"The fire caused us great damage, but also aroused a people unlike any other I'm familiar with," he said. "I'd like to also express my deep appreciation for those who helped out the evacuees."
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebok