Israel — Fourteen months after Israels worst environmental wildfires destroyed more than 7,500 acres of Carmel mountain forests and claimed 42 lives, a report issued by the office of Israels State Comptroller is directing the blame for not dealing quickly and properly enough to contain these fires at two government cabinet ministers. The two cabinet ministers, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, have been blamed for the major responsibility, according to a recent article in Haaretz. The two ministers are being asked in a report by the State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, to be removed from their present ministerial portfolios and assigned other portfolios.
The causes of the December 2-6, 2010 wildfires have still not been definitely assigned, although accounts at the time of the fire point to possible acts of arson or negligence. This includes reports of being lit by what many are calling illegal trash burning in the largely Druze inhabited Carmel mountain town of Osifiya.
The Haaretz article stated that harsh criticism for negligence in regards to not providing ample funds to finance adequate firefighting equipment prior to the fire is expected to be aimed at finance minister Steinitz. Interior minister Yishai, although admitting that the state of preparedness for fighting large wildfires was grossly inadequate, did not appropriate funds from his own ministry to alleviate the problem. Both ministers are also being accused of not acting fast enough to authorize the mobilization of government resources quickly enough once the scale of the wildfires became known.
One year later, the situation regarding adequate resources for fighting such wildfires has still not shown much improvement, however. What has happened is more rain fell during the month of November 2011, as well as in the month of January, 2012. This rainfall has dampened the forest areas and has helped reduce the danger of new wildfires.
Carmel Forest areas damaged by the wildfires are still in the process of recovery; as well as communities like Kibbutz Beit Oren. Beit Oren suffered substantial damage to its forest areas as well as to residential housing units. Besides rebuilding fire damaged structures, the kibbutz is also adopting new policies that include more green projects in and around the kibbutz.
Whether the recommendations of State Comptroller Lindenstrauss report are actually carried out still remains to be seen. But in any case, it makes everyone more aware that the responsibility buck ends at the top of the political totem poll; which in this case is Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu himself.