Sunday, December 05, 2010

Is Eli Yishai Responsible For Israel's Weak Firefighting Ability?

Journalist Alex Fishman seems to think so:
Yet this failure has an address. This person disappeared from the public eye Thursday, and this was no coincidence. He is intimately familiar with the firefighting force's grim state. His name is Eli Yishai and he is the interior minister, who holds the ministerial responsibility for the failure. Had Yishai shown the same kind of care for Shas' schools and its yeshiva students, Rabbi Ovadia would have fired him a while ago.
Fellow journalist Yossi Verter apparently feels the same way (from his article "Interior Minister must take responsibility for Carmel fire"):
When it came to squeezing out NIS 110 million for yeshiva students, in defiance of High Court rulings, he invested many hours of feverish discussion in back rooms. On the other hand, when it comes to matters that do not make the blood rush through his veins, he is satisfied to issue warnings, write letters and save these documents for a rainy day.

When it came to the needs of Israel's fire and rescues service, he was hardly going to precipitate a government crisis - he issued no threats, nor did he race over to the home of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to pressure him into issuing a ruling of religious law.

Over the weekend, Yishai's spokesman drowned the media in impressive warning letters formulated by Yishai over the past year. The Prime Minister's Office replied with letters of its own. File clerks in government offices were kept very busy during the 18 months of the second Bibi government. But other than the drafting and filing of letters, very little got done. Yishai can run, but he can't hide between a mound of paper. On the contrary, the letters will merely complicate his situation when he faces a state commission of inquiry, which is sure to be established. For his part, Netanyahu is not guilty, but he is responsible.
However, this is quite unfair, considering the following from jpost:
In 1998, the Ginosar Commission recommended that the government establish a national firefighting authority. It took 10 years for the government to vote to establish such an authority – which it did in 2008; but over the next two years, labor disputes between firefighters’ representatives in the Histadrut Labor Federation and the Treasury deadlocked the process.
If Yossi Verter did not have an anti-Shas axe to grind, he would have found this article from The Marker (a publication that is affiliated with his newspaper, Ha'aretz) that was published only a couple of weeks ago:
Besides the state comptroller, there have been at least three public committees - in 1976, 1995 and 1998 - that addressed the state of the country's firefighting personnel, and all came to similar conclusions. The government hasn't been quick to respond, but in 2008 it decided to adopt the reform recommendations of the Ginosar Committee from 1998. Don't hold your breath, because that reform hasn't budged even an inch since them, and no one is expecting it to go anywhere, either, due to the objections of the firefighters' organization and the Histadrut labor federation over its terms.

That is to say, past governments, as well as the Treasury, the firefighters' organization and the Histadrut Labor Federation bear much of the blame.

Here is a list of Interior Ministers, their political affiliation, and the dates that they served in that function since the Ginosar Commission:
Eli Suissa, Shas, 18/6/1996 - 6/7/1999
Natan Sharansky, Yisrael BaAliyah, 6/7/1999 - 11/7/2000
Haim Ramon, One Israel, 11/7/2000 - 7/3/2001
Eli Yishai, Shas, 7/3/2001 - 23/5/2002
Ariel Sharon, Likud, 23/5/2002 - 3/6/2002
Eli Yishai, Shas, 3/6/2002 - 28/2/2003
Avraham Poraz, Shinui, 28/2/2003 - 4/12/2004
Ophir Pines-Paz, Labor Party, 10/1/2005 - 23/11/2005
Ariel Sharon, Kadima, 23/11/2005 - 4/5/06
Roni Bar-On, Kadima, 4/5/06 - 4/7/07
Meir Sheetrit, Kadima, 4/7/07 - 31/3/09
Eli Yishai Shas 32 31/3/09 - present
Is it fair to say that only Eli Yishai is to blame?

I imagine that journalists Verter and Fishman, who are supposed to knowledgeable about current events, know about the Ginosar Commission and its recommendations. How many articles did they write warning about the lack Israel's firefighting capabilities? Chances are that unlike Eli Yishai, they don't even have a "mound of paper" to hide behind!

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