Carmel Fire Reveals Gap Between Israel's Image and Reality

A state commission of inquiry - as opposed to a lower-level investigative committee - is needed in order to examine the disaster's causes, the fire service's failings and the responsibility for many years of shortfalls.

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The disastrous blaze on the Carmel, a crisis entering its fourth day, is turning out to be one of the most serious civilian events in Israel's history, perhaps the most serious. Only military catastrophes have produced more casualties.

In addition to the dead and injured, the human price is heavy with thousands of evacuees from communities in the Carmel region, the blaze having destroyed or threatened to destroy their homes. Israel has been exposed as sadly powerless and vulnerable to sabotage. It did not prepare ahead despite the endless warnings. In the spreading blaze, Israel had to turn to countries around the world for assistance, which resulted in an airlift of materials and firemen, as well as firefighting planes and helicopters.

If the Netanyahu government retains an iota of understanding about its obligations, it will vote unanimously, including ministers from the Shas party, to set up a state commission of inquiry - as opposed to a lower-level investigative committee - to examine the disaster's causes, the fire service's failings and the responsibility for many years of shortfalls.

The chain of command is clear: Fire and Rescue Service chief Shimon Romah, who has held his post for eight years (since Eli Yishai's previous stint as interior minister ); Yishai; and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Dividing responsibility among them, the Finance Ministry and others will be one of the tasks of the commission whose establishment Netanyahu must logically support. Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch will then decide on the commission's members and whether she should preside over it herself.

Indeed, the countries that were quick to respond to Israel's request deserve many thanks. Among them are old friends, friends in need, and also Turkey, with whom relations have suffered. Netanyahu's expression of thanks to the Turkish people could create an opportunity to express sorrow for the loss of lives during events over the past year.

The Carmel disaster highlights the outrageous gaps in Israel's strategic and day-to-day readiness. It also underscores the discrepancy between Israel's image and reality. While Israel mourns its losses, it must take action to prevent such disasters from recurring by carefully studying the causes and punishing those responsible.

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