Micha Lindenstrauss - Olivier Fitoussi - February 2012
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Interior Minister Eli Yishai is expected to wage an all-out fight against the state comptroller to try to disprove that he bears personal responsibility for the 2010 Carmel fire.

Yishai's lawyers are expected to ask State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss today for all the testimony available on the disaster and seek a chance to question witnesses.

A draft of the comptroller's final report on the fire, which killed 44 people, pins "special responsibility" on Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for the fire service's lack of preparedness. Yishai's lawyers contend that this preliminary finding justifies their request.

Sources close to the situation say that if Lindenstrauss accedes to the request, it could delay the issuance of a final report, possibly beyond July, when Lindenstrauss' term ends. On the other hand, if Lindenstrauss refuses access to the testimony and to the witnesses themselves, Yishai might file a petition to the High Court of Justice on the issue before the final report is released.

Lindenstrauss acknowledged in the draft report, which was provided last week to those whose conduct is being investigated, that Yishai had pushed for expanding the resources available to the fire services.

But Lindenstrauss also said the interior minister had failed to address other key firefighting aspects such as operational capabilities and training. He claims Yishai did not get into the details and did not initiate necessary changes.

The interior minister's attorneys are also expected to ask Lindenstrauss to specify the significance of "special responsibility" on the part of a sitting cabinet minister.

The investigative material collected by Lindenstrauss' staff could help Yishai's lawyers determine what made the investigators propose "special responsibility." The lawyers' request is based on the approach used in commissions of inquiry, which says that individuals who would be harmed by the investigation's findings may see the evidence and mount a defense.

Yishai's lawyers are concerned that Lindenstrauss' conclusions, at least as reflected in the draft report, could harm the interior minister personally. The lawyers therefore say Yishai should receive the same rights the targets of a commission of inquiry would receive.