Last December's fire, which raged for four days and nights, claimed 44 lives, forced the evacuation of nearly 17,000 people and consumed 8,650 acres of land and natural forest.
Forty of the fatalities were Israel Prison Service cadets, enlisted to help in security forces' efforts in the area. They were killed when a flash blaze engulfed their bus, which was en route to the field office set up in Haifa.
Among the fatalities was Haifa Police chief Ahuva Tomer, who lost her life on the rescue operation.
The Prime Minister's Office said that since the ceremony – orchestrated by the Ministry of Public Security – was not an official State service, the prime minister's presence was not mandatory.
"The prime minister was closely involved in the creation of the monument and keeps in close touch with the families," the Prime Minister's Office's said.
The Carmel fire (Photo: Israel Fire and Rescue Services)
The ceremony will include the unveiling of a monument honoring the victims. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch will attend the ceremony.
According to a Wednesday report in Yedioth Ahronoth, Interior Minister Eli Yishai will also be absent from the ceremony.
His office offered the same explanation as Netanyahu's, adding that "This is a private ceremony organized by the Ministry of Public Security and not a State service."
"Over the past month I was invited and attended several memorial services held for the victims of the fire," Yishai said. "But seeing how some elements are interested in desecrating the victims' memory, I have decided not to attend this ceremony."
Yishai's comments refer to a letter sent by Danny Rozen, Ahuva Tomer's partner, to Netanyahu, asking him to prevent Yishai form attending the ceremony. Yishai was forced to leave a similar ceremony held last year, due to some of the families' protest over his presence.
Most of the families said they were pained by Netanyahu's decision.
Former Police Commissioner Zeev Even-Chen, who lost his daughter in the fire, said: "This is a flimsy excuse. The date was set months ago and if the prime minister wanted to attend the service, the date would have been changed to accommodate him."
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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