Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday made a cynic comment directed at Interior Minister Eli Yishai who slammed his plan to establish new Fire and Rescue Services. "I suggest you stop sending me, how shall I put it, cover letters," Netanyahu told ministers at Sunday's cabinet meeting immediately after Yishai criticized him.
The prime minister added cynically: "And don't send more than one letter a day, and no more than a billion shekels." The prime minister was also referring to criticism leveled at him by National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau. Netanyahu also stressed that "one cannot work just for inquiry committees, it's an impossible approach."
Interior Minister Yishai's office issued a response noting that "the minister did not notice any comment being directed at him. The minister was focused helping the Fire Services."
Last Thursday, it was revealed that out of the NIS 350 million (roughly $98 million) promised to the Fire Services, only NIS 100 million (roughly $28 million) would be allocated immediately. An additional NIS 150 million were said to be "allocated at a time to be decided in accordance with the prime minister's discretion and in coordination with the finance minister and interior security minister."
In response, Yishai demanded that NIS 700 million (roughly $196 million) be allocated to fire extinguishing services exclusively, separate from the rest of the emergency services' budget. He further demanded that the Fire Services not be subject to a reform as demanded by the Finance Ministry.
The plan approved Sunday will cost the state NIS 100 million more than Yishai's proposed program. As part of the new plan, the government will allocate NIS 350 million for the establishment of a national fire extinguishing layout under the responsibility of the Public Security Ministry. Twenty ministers voted in favor of the plan, but three Shas ministers, including Yishai opposed.
Yoav Gadassi, the head of the Firefighters' Union harshly criticized the government plan on Sunday. "The NIS 350 million are a front and offer no news for the people of Israel," he told Ynet.
"These are funds for the creation of a directorate with no professional fire commanders," he said. "We do not view ourselves partners in a directorate created according to a proposal approved in panic and hysteria because someone here wants to make history. How can one understand what the directorate's role is if it has no firefighters in it," he said.
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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