Daily Israel Report

MKs Scramble for Explanations in Storm's Wake

Committee to meet in upcoming days to discuss system failures during the storm, including nationwide power outage.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 12/15/2013, 10:26 AM

MK Shelly Yechimovich
MK Shelly Yechimovich
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Knesset Committee for Internal Affairs, headed by MK Miri Regev (Likud-Yisrael Beytenu), will hold a special meeting in the upcoming week to discuss the fallout from this weekend's historic storm. 

MK Eli Yishai (Shas) will head the subcommittee, which is set to examine the effectiveness of the government's response to the unprecedented snowfall. The hearing will discuss the efforts of local municipalities, the Ministry of Internal Security, Magen David Adom (MDA), the fire department, the police force, the Defense Ministry and the Home Front Command to rescue and ensure the safety of Israeli citizens. 

Government officials, defense experts, and medics will be invited to the subcommittee hearing, in order to foster a better sense of preparedness in case of future snowstorms.

While this year's three-day barrage of snow and rain have been unheard of in Israel since the 1920s, this is the third time since 2007 that Jerusalem saw snow, and the second set of torrential rain storms in Tel Aviv since 2012. 

Regev stated that "Israel can not allow its people to remain cut off over time in the freezing cold - the country has the tools to make things right again."

Evacuation efforts along Highway 1 and other major roads, and in urban areas like Jerusalem have been successful over the past several days. Despite this, hundreds of residents in villages in the Binyamin and Samaria areas have remained without power or water since Thursday. 

Regev continued, "Jerusalem has been under siege for three days, and thousands of people have been trapped in their homes without any ability to leave them - it's a difficult situation which cannot be overlooked." 

Front Preparedness Committee Chairman Yishai added that "the Israeli government did not predict the size of the storm and its dimensions- that is obvious. Nevertheless, it must be prepared against the forces of nature, especially considering that this is only the beginning of winter." The joint committee will meet Tuesday.

Not everyone believes that the meeting is necessary, however. MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) argued Sunday morning that "the state has responded reasonably [to the storm] in the end, and there is no room for criticism for a review, and certainly no place for a committee inquiry." 

"To be 100% ready for the storm, one would need resources that extend beyond our imagination," she continued. "The Jerusalem Municipality, the IDF, the Ministry of Defense, the Israeli Electric Corporation, MDA, police, welfare agencies and the rest - all have made their best efforts according to their capabilities and limitations."

Regarding those left without power, Yechimovich insisted that the fault is found in "budget cuts in the welfare system" - not the organizations themselves. 

Yechimovich also did not skimp on criticism for the Prime Minister, who praised emergency responders in a public briefing Saturday night. "Indeed, we are tired of the public displays from Netanyahu every time there is a disaster," the Labor MK claimed, stressing that the emergency responders are the real heroes and that the public needs to determine "the wheat from the chaff" in who operated best during the chaos.