Eli Yishai
Interior Minister Eli Yishai. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Interior Minister Eli Yishai is expected to be taken to task over last December’s devastating fire on Mount Carmel in State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss draft report on the fire, which will be shown Sunday to the agencies and officials it mentions.

The interior minister is responsible for the firefighting services, and Yishai has sought legal advice from Asaf Posner, one of Israel’s most prominent tort attorneys, over concerns he may be sued, Haaretz has learned.

Posner declined to comment for this report.

Yishai is also reportedly concerned over other possible legal action, including High Court petitions and a possible state committee of inquiry on the fire.

People close to Yishai have reiterated that the minister should not be saddled with overall responsibility as he had warned the treasury and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz over the poor state of fire-fighting services. They put responsibility at the treasury’s door and said others involved are focusing blame on Yishai.

Lindenstrauss is to send his draft report, completed last week, to the police, the fire-fighting services and the Israel Prison Service, among other agencies.

Lindenstrauss is expected to name five ministers as having direct and indirect ministerial and personal responsibility for the disaster.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz is also expected to be sharply criticized.

The draft report reveals serious shortcomings in coordination between the police and the prison service, and that resulted in a bus carrying prison service cadets to assist in the evacuation of Damun Prison catching fire, resulting in the deaths of 37 cadets and the driver.

Lindenstrauss said he found “negligence of the highest order.”

The report also said the two agencies failed to coordinate on alternative access and rescue routes, and prison service commanders failed in the handling of the prison evacuation and deployment of forces before they were sent into the area.

The fire, which broke out on December 4, resulted in the deaths of 44 people, including the cadets, police commanders, the bus driver and a teen volunteer. Seventy-four houses were gutted and another 173 were damaged; 17,000 people were evacuated from their homes and 32,000 dunams ‏(8,000 acres‏) of forest burned.

The agencies and individuals named have a month to respond to the report. Other agencies named include the Jewish National Fund, the Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Israel Air Force, the Tirat Hacarmel, Isfiya and Daliat al-Carmel municipalities and the Hof Hacamel Regional Council.

The final report, including the responses, is expected to be issued in a few months.