Israel–– “It is not our job to isolate the matter of the bus,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a special meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee on the Carmel fire, which killed 45 people in December 2010. “There is a fundamental difference between huge fires and other fires. We are discussing here a very extreme incident in Israel, but not something extraordinary in the world. There are huge fires in California, Canada, Greece, and Siberia. These fires sometimes burn areas larger than the State of Israel. These countries have all the means, and fires rage. By the way, there are no commissions of inquiry there.”
The meeting was moved from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Knesset, after State Control Committee chairman MK Uri Yehuda Ariel (National Union) accepted the State Comptroller’s argument that a meeting should not be held at the office of the person under investigation.
As for the need for firefighting planes, Netanyahu said, “There is no way of dealing with huge fires without planes. This is a basic problem. There are other problems with the Fire Services, but what is decisive is the ability to arrive with a lot of fire suppressants over mountainous terrain, and drop the suppressants to put out the fire.”
Netanyahu appeared flustered during the discussion, and talked about the decisions taken after the fire broke out. “There was a long dry spell, nine months without rain, and a coffee pot was left, which sent the flames into the trees’ crowns. My first decision was to call in planes.”
A representative of the bereaved families shouted at Netanyahu, “Our children burned in the fire. You’re saying that you bought planes. Who cares?”
Netanyahu replied, “The political echelon must not engage in such investigations. I will not refer to this. I will refer to the report and the question of the fire. I have no way of responding to your pain. I know this pain.”
Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz said that he was surprised by the extensive criticism of the Ministry of Finance in the report by the previous State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. “A slew of top legal experts expressed their opinion on this matter. I dont want to elaborate. Every minister and ministry carries its responsibility. The budget discussions cannot make the Ministry of Finance responsible for other organizations.”