Israel — Interior Minister Eli Yishai went on the defensive Sunday ahead of what was expected to be a damning report by the state comptroller on the response to a deadly fire in northern Israel last winter.
The devastating forest fire that erupted in December 2010 swept across the Carmel region, claiming the lives of forty-four people, including Prison Service cadets and a police commander, and destroyed over 32,000 dunams of land.
Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Yishai said that State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss had examined the management of the fire service as far as the 1970s, when Yishai had still been in school.
I was the only one to act, he told his fellow cabinet ministers. What did they expect – that I would take a fire truck and go into the field? That I would take over from the fire chiefs?
Haaretz has learned that Yishai sought legal counsel over the past few days, fearing that the comptrollers report will include condemnation of his personal conduct. Yishai has met with Asaf Posner, considered to be one of Israels most prominent damages lawyers. Posner declined to comment for the article.
The draft report by the state comptroller into the devastating forest fire revealed a series of failures which require immediate attention, a statement from the comptroller’s office said Sunday.
The draft was submitted to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yishai, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonvich, as well as to other relevant officials. They have one month to respond to its findings.
The report focuses on six main areas: the events on the first day of the fire; the firefighting services; forest and bush fire prevention; security in events of emergency; the preparedness of local authorities; and the responsibility of ministers – including those in past governments – for failures and oversights.