fire - David Bachar - December 9 2010
Firemen battling the blaze in Carmel Fire. Photo by David Bachar
Text size

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein yesterday rejected a demand to investigate four senior cabinet ministers for negligence during this month's Carmel fire, saying the public should judge their conduct, not the courts.

Two weeks ago, relatives of one of the victims had demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz be criminally investigated for negligence in connection with the fire, which killed 44 people. The request was made by Ze'ev Even Chen, a retired police major general, and Haim Klein, who are the father and father-in-law, respectively, of the late Topaz Even Chen Klein. The two argued that if those responsible for the fire were not held accountable, more lives would be lost in the future.

But Weinstein said he did not think there were legal grounds for a criminal investigation. The lack of resources that made it so hard to control the fire should be examined by the Knesset, or by an inquiry committee of some kind, not a court of law, he stated.

Moreover, he said, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is already examining the disaster, and if he finds reason to suspect that a crime was committed, he will pass the information to Weinstein for further investigation.

Even Chen and Klein based their claim of criminal negligence on a report that Lindenstrauss published a few weeks ago. In that report, released shortly after the fire, the comptroller defined the fire department's shortcomings as a serious, ongoing failure that threatened the lives and property of many people.

The report placed the bulk of the blame on Yishai, but also cited Steinitz, Barak and Netanyahu.