Kadima: PM Bought MK's Vote on Carmel Fire Probe in Return for Yeshiva Funds

MK Yoel Hasson calls on Attorney General to verify suspicions that Netanyahu bought National Union MK Uri Ariel's vote in exchange for NIS 21.8 million for hesder yeshivas.

Kadima MK Yoel Hasson called on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday to verify suspicions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allegedly bought National Union MK Uri Ariel's vote against a state commission of inquiry into the Carmel fire.

According to Hasson, who is the Knesset Control Committee chairman, in exchange for Ariel's vote against the probe the Prime Minister promised him that the Defense Ministry will allocate a sum of NIS 21.8 million to the hesder yeshivas, religious seminaries where students also serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement denying the allegations.

"During the Prime Minister's discussion with MK Uri Ariel, Netanyahu clarified to Ariel that establishing a commission of inquiry will only delay enacting the lessons from the Carmel fire," the statement read. "In contradiction to what has been claimed, the Prime Minister did not promise any monetary reward for a vote and was not asked to do so either."

National Union MK Uri Ariel
Tess Scheflan

Speaking with Haaretz on Tuesday, MK Ariel also denied Hasson's comments.

"The subject of funding for hesder yeshivas is at the basis of the budget and is open to everyone," said Ariel. "The funding was not transferred by the Defense Ministry because of a disagreement with the Finance Ministry.

"Today at 4 P.M., at the Finance Committee, we decided to postpone the approval of the Defense Ministry's budget until the issue of funding for hesder yeshivas was resolved and this evening the Defense Ministry announced that it is transferring the funds," said Ariel.

Earlier Tuesday, the Knesset decided to postpone the vote on a state probe into Carmel fire after an inconclusive debate.

Hasson (Kadima ), who is spearheading the move to set up an inquiry panel, opened the debate on the state comptroller's report regarding the failings of the fire services by urging lawmakers to act "in the best interest of the citizens" instead of focusing on political considerations.

"To be a ministers means to take responsibility," Hasson declared, adding this was "our moment of truth as Knesset members" to regain the trust of the public.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the meeting for the controversy over establishing the panel, saying he supported the move but the premier favored a comptroller inquiry alone.

Yishai last week called for a state commission in the hope it would clear him of exclusively responsibility for the failures of the fire services, of which his ministry is in charge.

Netanyahu called Yishai several times in the following days to dissuade him from acting to set up such a panel.

The interior minister told the Knesset Control Committee that he believed "the responsibility [for the destruction] lies with the government. This government did not enough, but more than its predecessors."

But he also said he felt that he and his colleagues from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party were being singled out unfairly as criticism was heaped on them over the way funds had been distributed and speculation that the disaster could have been prevented.

"Such questions aren't asked of other ministers, just those from Shas," he said. "When the defense minister doesn't get the budget he seeks, nobody asks him these questions.