Carmel fire bus
Bus trapped in Camrel wildfire, Dec. 2, 2010. Photo by Dan Oren
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Family members of a victim of the devastating Carmel fire earlier this month demanded Monday that senior members of the Israeli government, including the prime minister, should face a criminal investigation for negligence.

Ze'ev Even Chen, a retired major general in the Israel Police, who lost his daughter Topaz Even Chen Klein in the fire, and her father-in law, Haim Klein, said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak should be investigated for criminal negligence in dealing with the fire, which led to the deaths of 43 people.

The two men supported their claim of criminal negligence by pointing to a report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss which was published last week

In the report, released ahead of its scheduled time, Lindenstrauss defined the situation of the fire department as a continuous and serious failure, which could destroy the lives and property of many people.

The report placed the bulk of the blame on Yishai, as well as Steinitz and Barak, and stated that they must immediately reverse the neglect.

The two fathers demanded that justice be served, saying that if those responsible for the fire were not held accountable, there would be additional losses of life.

"The death of the victims was not because of the hand of fate; it was because of negligence on the part of the prime minister, interior minister, finance minister and defense minister," the fathers' statement said, adding that "this complaint does not stop the pain over the loss."

Yishai defended himself at a ministry meeting on Monday, saying that he was not running away from any responsibility for the fire. He did admit that not enough money was added to the firefighters' budget.

Although he himself has supported the notion, he refused to say whether his Shas party would support establishing a state investigation into the fire.