The Interior Minister, Shas leader Eli Yishai, responded on Saturday evening for the first time to criticism leveled at him for the performance of the country's firefighting services, which fall under his purview, in the massive fire burning through the Carmel region of northern Israel.
The minister emphasized in an interview with Channel 2 throughout his political career, there was no issue that he dealt with more than the firefighting services in Israel, which are, in his words, in a "catastrophic condition."
"I am happy to be interrogated and I requested an investigation commission to bring the truth to light," Yishai said. "I wrote letters and warned about the situation. I told Netanyahu that I will not vote with the government in non-confidence votes on this issue, if they come up."
Yishai stated, "I did a lot, and as a result of my struggle… I brought a hundred million shekels after eight to ten years, and I asked for more."
The interior minister gave examples that he contends prove his commitment to the issue of firefighting. "Seven years ago, when Ariel Sharon was prime minister, they made a decision to cancel firefighting aircraft, and I was the only one that voted against it."
Yishai also said that last year he requested and recommended that firefighting be transferred to the authority of the Interior Security Ministry.
Responding to a query of whether he was considering quitting his post, Yishai responded, "I didn't call for an inquiry for nothing, and it's no accident that even firefighters have been saying that since I arrived [to this position], the money has started to arrive. When the committee is formed and conducts a proper inquiry, it will all become clear and the truth will see the light."
Yishai continued, commending the performance of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. He attacked the media, claiming that they covered his comments regarding foreign workers and stipends for religious students, but although "there was no issue that I commented on more than firefighting, there is no record of this because it didn't interest the media."
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