Micha Lindenstrauss, Yoel Hasson and Eli Yishai
From left: Micha Lindenstrauss, Yoel Hasson and Eli Yishai. Photo by Emil Salman
Text size

The chairman of the Knesset Control Committee, MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima ), decided yesterday to defer a vote on convening a state commission of inquiry into the Carmel fire after it became clear that he didn't have a majority in favor. He said the vote would be held some time in the next week.

The delay is the outcome of parliamentary maneuvering by the coalition to ensure a majority against the establishment a state commission. As part of this campaign, seven committee members, constituting a majority, made a written commitment to oppose a state commission. The coalition also appointed two MKs as "acting" members of the Knesset Control Committee.

Knesset House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud ), who approved the appointment of coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin (Likud ) as "acting" Knesset Control Committee member instead of opposition member Uri Ariel (National Union ), denied any impropriety, saying it was a customary practice. He explained it was carried out after Hasson refused to say when the Control Committee would vote on the state commission.

Hasson refused to allow Levin to present his position to the committee and ordered Knesset ushers to remove the Likud legislator from the committee room. Likud officials said yesterday that, contrary to the impression conveyed by Hasson, the Control Committee can vote to convene a state commission of inquiry only on matters that have already been investigated by the state comptroller. They contended that the committee therefore has no authority to convene a commission that would investigate the Carmel blaze.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss issued a report earlier this month on the state of the country's firefighting services, but his investigation predated the recent fires in the Carmel.

Yesterday's Control Committee hearing on the report was especially stormy, with some of the relatives of the 43 people killed in the Carmel attending as guests of Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman.

Braverman, a member of the Labor Party, said he supported convening a state inquiry commission despite the opposition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas ) told those in attendance that he, too, supported establishing a state commission but said Netanyahu wished to suffice with an investigation by the state comptroller. Yishai hinted that his party would therefore support the prime minister in a vote if required to do so.