Yishai - Nechushtan - Jan 2012
Interior Minister Eli Yishai at a memorial ceremony for victims of the Carmel disaster. Photo by Gil Nechushtan
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Sources close to Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz reacted with outrage on Sunday to a Haaretz report which revealed that the state comptroller is expected to call for the removal of both ministers from their current positions over their performance in the Carmel fire in 2010.

The recommendation is expected as part of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’ upcoming report into the government’s handling of the Carmel Forest fire disaster of December 2010, which claimed 44 lives.

“The comptroller’s recommendation to remove Steinitz is completely absurd, a bizarre decision, total stupidity which has no precedent in Israel or abroad,” said a source at the Finance Ministry on Sunday.

“It shows a complete lack of basic understanding of the role of the finance minister. To come to the minister and the Finance Ministry and say: you are guilty for the Carmel disaster or partly guilty – that is insane,” the source added.

Sources close to Yishai said on Sunday that the interior minister has no intention of stepping down. “The comptroller is promoting a policy [according to which] any minister that does not get what he wants must resign. For example, [Deputy Health Minister Yaakov] Litzman must step down, or at least threaten to do so, because there aren’t enough beds in the hospitals.”

The sources protested the fact that the results of the unpublished report were leaked to the media before being officially released. “The leaks coming out of the comptroller’s office are illegal, and they also did not exist in the past,” they said.

Sources at the Prime Minister’s Office said unofficially on Sunday morning that the comptroller’s report would necessitate Steinitz’s removal as finance minister. The likely replacement, they said, would be Moshe Kahlon (Likud), who already holds the welfare and communications portfolios.

Haaretz reported on Sunday morning that a report by the state comptroller into the Carmel fire disaster, which is meant to be submitted to the Knesset in February, is expected to call for both Steinitz and Yishai to be replaced. The report, however, will not call on the ministers to resign from the cabinet, but it will recommend that they be given different portfolios.

The comptroller’s report is also likely to level harsh criticism against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and the cabinet in general for failures regarding the Carmel disaster.