PM to Diaspora Jews: Israel must rebuild ‘three times’

PM to Diaspora Jews: Israel must rebuild ‘three times’

10 Dezember 2010

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Israel — On a conference call with over 900 American Jewish leaders on Thursday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel must “address the future possibility of fires that will consume a big part of the country.”

Netanyahu praised the Jewish National Fund/Karen Kayemet Leyisrael and the firefighters for their response to the Carmel disaster, but said that Israel will need to rebuild “three times.”

“We will have to rebuild the homes that were destroyed,” he said. “We’ll have to rebuild the forest. And we’ll have to build – not rebuild – an aerial capability to make sure that the valuable work that we’ll do together to rejuvenate and rehabilitate this forest isn’t consumed by future fire. I believe we can accomplish all these things.”

Approximately 45% of the Carmel forest was burned, and renewal methods would have to take ecological concerns into account, the prime minister said. “We have to do it in a way that is compatible with ecological and other concerns that we have.”

Netanyahu cited aerial measures as being critical to stopping last weekend’s fire and future fires.

“We have to address the future possibility of fires that will consume a big part of the country,” Netanyahu said.

“These fires are fundamentally different from fires that break out in cities.”

Citing dry wood, strong winds, the need for firewalls and the comparative lack of roads, Netanyahu said forest fires require a “fundamentally different logistical effort.”

He cited a conversation he had had over lunch with Greece’s Prime Minister George Papandreou on the Greek island of Paros in August. Netanyahu and the Greek prime minister watched a forest fire on the island gradually move toward them.

Netanyahu was apprehensive, but Papandreou repeatedly told him not to worry about it.

As the two leaders watched, within 35 minutes, Netanyahu recalled, two Canadian-built airplanes and a helicopter extinguished the flames.

“When I came back to Israel, I understood we have to organize and procure these planes,” Netanyahu said. We were inadequately prepared for this.

Greece, which has a great deal of experience in fighting forest fires, was among the nations that sent help to put out the Carmel blaze.

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