Interior Minister Eli Yishai
Interior Minister Eli Yishai Israel news photo: Flash 90

According to a poll whose results were published Monday, 47 percent of Israelis believe that Interior Minister Eli Yishai should resign over the Carmel wildfire.

The poll, which was conducted by the Panels Institute for Israel’s Knesset TV channel, found that 43 percent of respondents do not believe that Yishai needs to resign.

The poll was conducted in wake of last Wednesday’s incident, in which Yishai had to be escorted out of an official memorial ceremony at Beit Oren for the 44 people who died in the Carmel fire disaster. Yishai left after several family members of the fire's victims loudly interrupted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he got up to speak.

The shouting was led by Danny Rosen, the life partner of Brigadier-General Ahuva Tomer, the female commander of Haifa Police who died in the blaze. Rosen stood up and singled out Yishai in the loud verbal attack, saying that Yishai had no right to be present at the ceremony and demanded that he leave. He then threatened that he and other relatives would leave the ceremony if Yishai did not.

Yishai said in an interview on Israel’s Channel 2 News on Monday that he came to the ceremony since he believed that, being a government member as well as being the minister in charge of Israel's firefighting services, it was his duty to take part in the memorial.

Yishai added that shortly after the shouting began, he understood that this was a planned attack and decided to leave. “I decided immediately that I had to leave and told Rabbi Amar, who was sitting next to me, that I did not want to ruin the ceremony. Rabbi Amar asked me if I want him to go out with me and I told him to do what he sees fit. The rest is already known.”

The Panels Institute poll also asked Israelis whether they believe Yishai’s claims that he is being attacked only because he is a religious Jew and of Mizrachi origin. The poll found that 70 percent of respondents believe that Yishai’s claims are unfounded. Only 25 percent believed that there is truth to Yishai’s claims.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Baruch Abuhatzeira, known as the Baba Baruch (son of the Baba Sali), defended Yishai over the weekend and denounced the attack against him by the bereaved families.

Speaking during a Shabbat Torah lesson at the synagogue of Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, Rabbi Abuhatzeira called the outburst during the memorial “an evil action against our friend Eli Yishai. They behaved with him as they do with the most wicked haters of Israel.”

Despite the attack against him at the memorial, Yishai has received visits over the last several days from some of the families who believe the outburst was uncalled for. These visits, which included a visit by the parents of 16-year-old Elad Riven, are seen by the Shas party as a counterweight to the personal attacks against Yishai on the part of some of the families, particularly Danny Rosen, who has gone so far as to threaten Yishai with a lawsuit.