Interior minister releases defensive video before report on Carmel fire

Eli Yishai defends his actions in movie entitled ‘Carmel disaster – new facts, what really happened?’

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

A new video released by Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s Shas party aims to show how he was the only politician who sounded the alarm before the Carmel Forest fire. The video was published a day before the State Comptroller is set to release a report on the fire that many expect will place blame for the disaster on Yishai.

The defensive video features statements from the families of victims and specialists who explain how the minister acted responsibly and should not be blamed for the 2010 fire on the Carmel mountain range, the largest in the country’s history.

A preliminary draft of the report released in February placed special responsibility on Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for the response to the massive blaze, in which 44 people were killed.

The final report will be published on Wednesday.

The film starts with former supreme court judge Eliyahu Winograd saying “the state comptroller himself praises the [interior] minister as the only minister who worked to allow the comptroller to do his job,” before moving to TV interviews and news flashes.

Winograd, who headed the inquiry into the second Lebanon war and the country’s lack of preparation, was hired by Yishai as a legal adviser during the preparation on the sensitive report.

In one part of the video, Israel’s response to wildfires is compared to the state of Victoria in Australia, where it says firefighters have more trouble battling blazes, even though they outnumber Israel in manpower three-to-one.

The video also contains a number of witnesses and experts speaking in Yishai’s defense.

One of the lines repeated a few times is that Yishai had tried to warn the decision makers about Israel’s emergency crews, but that he was ignored or dismissed.The draft State Comptroller report in February noted that point as well.

The quotes “Eli Yishai is not guilty,” and “Yishai can not be blamed” appear on the screen, as the names of those who said them continuously change.

Labor head Shelly Yachimovich, former minister Avraham Poraz and other politicians are quoted alongside multiple Israeli media sources and analysts who said the same thing.

David Dayan, who lost his son Shimon in the fire, says in the video that Yishai was not guilty of what happened, as does Einav Barami, the widow of Yaron Barami, who was killed in the disaster.

 

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