"He said it's an ongoing mass failure that dates back to all past governments and has tail-winded all of my warnings and my work since the first day I took office," claimed Yishai. He added that he was being lynched by the media
During the press conference Yishai mentioned the state comptroller's statement which read: "One should not condition the passing of a budget on going through with the reforms as the Treasury did. We mustn't turn our firefighters into hostages. I can voice my opinion, struggle, battle, but eventually the Treasury objects, the government doesn't approve it and the minister is accountable."
'I begged and cried not to cancel aerial extinguishment.' Yishai (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
According to Yishai, his request "for NIS 672 million (over $184 million) in order to fill up holes in the budget was not approved. Instead only NIS 100 million (over $27 million) was approved: NIS 40 million (nearly $11 million) from Treasury, NIS 30 million (over $8 million) from Interior Ministry, NIS 30 million from local authorities. This is the first time in past few years in which NIS 100 million was approved for firefighting and rescue services."
Yishai mentioned one particular meeting that took place during former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's term in 2002. "I begged, I came to the government and cried out not to approve the cancelation of aerial extinguishment. Sadly, everyone supported it, like it was a religious bill." Later, the minister claimed: "If I weren't haredi, people would say I predicted the future."
The interior minister repeated his claim that he was being lynched by the media following the Carmel disaster, adding he was being "harshly incited against."
Fire Commissioner Shimon Romach, who also participated in the press conference, came to Yishai's defense and praised his efforts. "For as long as I've been serving in this position, we've never had an interior minister who managed to increase our budget to more than 10 times our annual equipment budget."
'First and foremost - Interior Ministry'
The 38-page report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss leaves no room for doubt – the government of Israel had neglected its citizens. "The fact that the attempt to take care of this problem, by Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Eli Yishai with the Treasury Ministry and Defense Ministry, is ongoing and has not contributed to any practical advancements or integrated plans – is a major failure, meaning the civil population has been abandoned in times of emergency."
In the scathing report Lindenstrauss finds Yishai particularly responsible for the failure, saying: "I find it important to caution the government and the prime minister regarding this ongoing major failure, which, first and foremost, the Interior Ministry and its minster are responsible for."
He continues to call for an immediate governmental decision to establish a national firefighting and rescue authority and to organize the firefighting services "so they will suit their destination – and better sooner than later!"
Lindenstrauss addressed the issue of the structural organization of firefighting services in great detail ("a serious elementary problem") saying: "This ongoing mass failure is first and foremost the responsibility of the Interior Ministry and its minster, who are accountable for firefighting services."
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