Netanyahu told his ministers during the weekly cabinet meeting, "Today or in the following meeting we will present the government with a proposal for the establishment of a national firefighting authority, after NIS 100 million (about $28 million) have already been approved to improve the firefighting services, thanks to Interior Minister Yishai's intensive activity."
Addressing last week's Carmel wildfire, which claimed the lives of 43 people and destroyed some 12,300 acres of forest, the prime minister said that "in the past week, the government has acted intensively to restore communities in the Carmel and help the fire victims.
"I have instructed all of the ministries to join forces in a quick and focused effort, in a bid to return life in the Carmel to normal. A team of director-generals has already toured the area and spoken to the residents."
Netanyahu also spoke about the funds transferred to communities affected by the fire. "We allotted as initial aid NIS 4.5 million ($1.25 million) to the Carmel Coast Regional Council, NIS 3 million ($830,000) to Usfiya, and today we will approve NIS 1 million ($280,000) for Dalyat al-Carmel and NIS 2 million ($550,000) to Tirat Carmel.
"In order to speed up the handling of the fire victims, I have instructed the ministries to reduce bureaucracy and I am presenting an offer to cancel the need for tenders to special government activities in order to accelerate processes."
He added that the urgent matters on the government's agenda were "establishing a national firefighting system and an aerial firefighting system."
Minister Yossi Peled called on Netanyahu to set up a national firefighting system within three months. "We don't have time and we don't know when the next emergency will take place. We must prepare urgently to defend the home front. The IDF will not be able to deal with such issues at times of emergency," he said.
At the start of the meeting the prime minister refrained from addressing "burning" political issues, like US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent speech.
Lieberman won't give up
The cabinet was also expected to discuss an Yisrael Beiteinu bill recognizing military conversions, which has been infuriating Shas. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman clarified at the start of the meeting that "there are no quiet understandings with Shas on the military conversion."
He added that "Shas' demand has nothing to do with religion or Jewish Law, but with a desire to control the army as well. I don't understand, is the military rabbi an atheist? Doesn't he understand in Halacha? Isn't he the one signing conversion certificates for IDF soldiers? Shas' demand to have (Chief Sephardic) Rabbi Amar sign them too is just an attempt to control."
Minister Lieberman said Yisrael Beiteinu would not accept Shas' demands. "We won't be there. There will be no compromise, delay or deal with the law. They may reach a compromise with the prime minister, but that's their business. As far as we are concerned, there will be no agreement and the law will pass its first, second and third reading as soon as possible."
Addressing the diplomatic developments and Clinton's speech, the foreign minister said that "without a solution for the security issues, Israel will go nowhere."
He added, "We call for direct negotiations, and that was our stand from the very beginning without any preconditions. When the Palestinians are ready to sit down, we'll be able to move forward."
Addressing the principles of the negotiations, Lieberman said that "those who think it's possible to solve the problem on the border issue are wrong. In Lebanon and Gaza we also saw more terrorism and extremism. Returning to the 1967 borders will move the conflict into Israel, and those talking about the '67 lines should look at what is happening in Gaza and Lebanon."
He said the goal was to form a clear and logical Israeli stand. The international community will accept any such stance, he added.
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