Fighting the Carmel blaze.
Fighting the Carmel blaze. Israel news photo: Flash 90 (file)

A Comptroller-Ombudsman’s report to be released next week urges that two senior ministers resign because of the Carmel fire disaster that killed 44 people in December 2010.

Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss has concluded that Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, a close friend and ally of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Interior Minister Eli Yishai of Shas, are personally responsible for the disaster.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is not required to take the advice of Lindenstrauss, but Israel’s mainstream media, whose clear agenda is to topple the Likud government, already have begun trumpeting the report, prior to its release. The Hebrew-language Yediot Achronot newspaper disclosed the leaked results of the report Sunday.

Yishai, whose ministry includes the firefighting system, previously has been criticized for not updating Israel’s sparse aerial firefighting capabilities. He claimed that he did not receive the requested budget allocations and had inherited an outdated infrastructure.

The Finance Ministry did not provide funds for buying more airplanes that can fight forest fires, but it was the Olmert government, when Kadima’s Ronnie Bar-On was Foreign Minister, that initially refused to approve the financing for purchasing the fleet.

Israel did not give much attention to firefighting in its early years, as most houses and buildings were of available stone, terrazzo, and other non-flammable materials rather than wood and bricks. Fires in homes were rare in Israel, but what was not taken into account was the growth of forests in the formerly barren land.

Lindenstrauss' report suggests that Steinitz and Yishai take up other ministerial posts, but also criticized other ministers, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch of Yisrael Beiteinu.

All of the ministers singled out are coalition members.

Besides the tragic loss of lives, the Carmel fire disaster destroyed homes and more than 10,000 acres of trees. The inferno was extinguished only after help was flown in from Europe and the United States, which provided its supertanker firefighting plane. Netanyahu has since upgraded the force and cooperation with Europe in fighting fires.