Israel's State Comptroller: Finance Ministry Should Have Kept Funding Firefighters

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz is reportedly shocked to be blamed for a disaster that was not under his purview.

The Finance Ministry should not have made funding for the firefighting services conditional on a reform, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said over the weekend. Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz received his report Thursday, criticizing them over the Carmel fire disaster in December 2010.

Steinitz was reportedly shocked to be blamed for a disaster that was not under his purview.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Interior Minister Eli Yishai - Gil Eliyahu
Gil Eliyahu

The Finance Ministry should have given the firefighters at least minimal funding in order to enable them to provide lifesaving services, stated Lindenstrauss.

The money was subsequently transferred in the wake of the Carmel fire, which claimed 44 lives.

The draft report also reviews the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. All parties have two weeks to respond to the comptroller.

The final report is due to be published in a month.

Yishai and Steinitz bear "special responsibility" for the firefighters' poor state, found the report. Once the Finance Ministry refused to fund the firefighters, Yishai should have done so with his own ministry's money.

Lindenstrauss reportedly does not intend to demand that Yishai or Steinitz step down, but is hoping that they will do so due to public pressure. However, neither minister intends to resign.

'Crazy and baseless'

Steinitz stated in response that the report is "extraordinarily crazy and baseless." Yishai for his part is reportedly considering petitioning the High Court of Justice against the report.

In response, his office stated that the minister was pleased the report said he played no role in the accident that led a busload of jail wardens to drive into the flames, causing most of the casualties from the fire, but that the draft contained many factual errors that distorted its conclusions.

Yishai was the only one who did anything for the firefighting services over the last 20 years, and the report notes this, adds the response.