Israel — The Knesset’s State Control Committee members voted against establishing a national commission of inquiry into the Carmel forest fire on Monday, even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already managed to hinder the attempt.
Only three committee members voted in favor of the commission of inquiry while eight opposed it. The Knesset members who voted in favor were Committee Chairman MK Israel Hasson (Kadima), MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) and MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) who replaced Otniel Schneller in the vote. Those who voted against the commission were MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), MK Uri Ariel (National Union), MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), MK Amnon Cohen (Shas), Raleb Majadele (Labor) and MK Carmel Shama (Likud).
Prior to the vote, MK Hasson said: “Beyond the political battle, many among the Israeli public view this as a battle over truth, a battle about a major failure, a fight against who did what they were suppose to have done.”
He added: “This is the Knesset’s time, the time for the Knesset members responsible for the State Control Committee. My duty was to raise this issue for public debate and bring it to a vote, and let the Knesset decide whether they want to know the truth, find out who is accountable for the failure, or whether they want to back off the firefighting issue.”
The committee chairman added that “there is a strong feeling on the street that the public would like to get some answers about the Carmel disaster and about the firefighting services in the last few years.”
State Comptroller: Committee question of politics
Hasson also addressed State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’ report regarding the Carmel fire failure and its direct relation to the fire fighting services’ 2007 report.
“An amendment was made to the state comptroller’s basic law a few hours ago that failing to take care of shortcomings will be considered a disciplinary violation. For the first time, this law gives the state comptroller’s institution real influence and allows the criticism an opportunity to change reality. It makes the criticism powerful and meaningful.”
State Comptroller Lindenstrauss, who participated in the deliberation, later said: “The Knesset is sovereign to accept its decisions and I carry out what they decide.”
When asked if there is a need for a national commission of inquiry into the Carmel forest fire, he refused to answer. “I will not say what I think because it’s a political question and as the state comptroller I’m not allowed to express a political opinion.”
Last week a tumultuous discussion was held at the Knesset’s State Control Committee, with the participation of the state comptroller and Interior Minister Eli Yishai. The state comptroller said that the report he had published a couple of weeks before speaks for itself.
“Many residents will find themselves facing an actual life-threatening situation if our reports won’t be implemented. It’s one of the reasons we filed the report a few weeks earlier, because we understood there is real danger here.”