Russian fire-fighting plane over Carmel fire.
Russian fire-fighting plane over Carmel fire.Israel news photo: Flash 90

In the wake of the Carmel forest fire, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is seeking to set up a regional firefighting force – a development that could have positive implications for Israel beyond greater efficiency at fighting fires, says MK Ayoub Kara, who is also Deputy Minister for Regional Development in the Galilee, an advocate for regional cooperation – especially with Turkey, which, he says, proved that it could work with Israel effectively on emergencies during the fire. “We saw how the Turks stood side by side with us, and such cooperation can continue,” Kara said.

Last week, Netanyahu spoke with several regional leaders, including the Prime Ministers of Greece, Russia, and Cyprus, King Abdullah of Jordan, and PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, on the idea of pooling resources to deal with natural disasters such as forest fires. “By using our combined efforts we can prepare and effectively respond to natural disasters much more efficiently,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “The cooperation that we saw in fighting the Carmel fire gives hope to all those seeing peace,” Netanyahu said, adding that he was sure that Turkey would want to be a part of the force as well. Netanyahu, speaking to the leaders, suggested setting up a meeting in Athens on getting the force off the ground.

Kara, who was instrumental in bringing a Turkish contingent to help fight the Carmel fire, agrees that the regional force could pave the way to better relations between all countries in the region. “Even at the height of the tension between Israel and Turkey, I never though that the last word on our relationship with Ankara had been said. The fire gives us an opportunity to go back to our previous good relations. I have no doubt Israel and Turkey can work things out,” and participation in the regional firefighting source will increase good relations between all nations in the region, he said.

The high cost of each country maintaining enough firefighting airplanes and other state-of-the-art equipment for major fires when the distances between them are so small makes the plan practical as well.

The idea of a multinational force for fighting fires was also raised by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during a tour of ambassadors to the carmel area Monday.