PM Netanyahu reviewed the efforts to extinguish the Carmel forest fire.

 Cabinet communique


Government holds Cabinet meeting in Tirat Hacarmel (Photo: GPO)

(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

At the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 5 December 2010:

1. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks:
"First, I would like to say that our hearts go out to the families who are laying to rest their loved ones. The entire nation identifies with your pain and with the heroism of those who perished. Today, the Cabinet is meeting in Tirat Hacarmel in order to discuss providing assistance to the citizens who were evacuated from their homes and whose homes were destroyed in the massive wildfire. We must help the evacuees, rebuild their homes and rehabilitate the infrastructures and do so as quickly as possible. I spoke with the ministers before the meeting and it is important to say this here and now: I do not want delays. I do not want bureaucracy. I want processes to be shortened. I want quick solutions. I want all of the people – within days – to be able to return to their homes or to alternative housing, until the reconstruction work is finished.

Today, we will also launch the action that will lead to a plan to rehabilitate the Carmel forests. On this issue, I would like to thank the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Nature and Parks Authority, and the Jewish National Fund. I know that you are doing much on this matter, especially now. We are still in the midst of a massive forest fire. The firefighters are doing holy work but it must be understood that this kind of wildfire can only be defeated and extinguished from the air. On this we have been working day and night. We have mobilized over 30 aircraft from the nations of the world. Today, a gigantic "Supertanker" plane that we rented from an American company is due to go into action. I believe that with these tools, it will be possible to contain and extinguish the fire.

It must be understood that massive forest fires are fundamentally different from routine fires. The only way to deal with these wildfires is to integrate not only ground forces but aerial forces as well, local and international alike. Thus the major powers have acted. In a massive wildfire in California a few years ago, the US received assistance from eight countries; it neither hesitated nor was ashamed to request this assistance, including from countries from which we have made similar requests. In last summer’s massive wildfire in Russia, Russia neither hesitated nor was ashamed to request assistance from Ukraine and from other countries. We also did not hesitate, nor were we ashamed, in requesting such assistance. This is what we did and it has led to results. We will take control of, contain and – in the end – extinguish the fire.

An additional subject is the establishment of a local aerial firefighting force. Even if we had such a force, and we are working on it, it will not always free us of the need to mobilize international support, but it would give us the possibility of bringing an aerial ‘cup of water’ to fires.

The issue of closing the gaps in the conventional, ground-based, not aerial, firefighting network is an important issue. The Government has begun to deal with this issue, which has demanded a solution for 62 years. We have started to deal with it. We have added budgets. We are promoting changes but this issue has always been separate from that of massive brushfires.

I would like to take this opportunity to again thank the firefighters, police, soldiers, MDA and ZAKA personnel, the municipality employees, the voluntary organizations and Israelis who have shown exemplary conduct. There has been a general mobilization of the entire nation in a display of mutual responsibility at this crucial time.

I would like to also take this opportunity to thank the heads of state and government that have extended important assistance to the State of Israel at this time. I would like to thank Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and the people at his ministry, as well as National Security Council Chairman Uzi Arad and his people, for working day and night to create links, clarify the information and put me and the Government in contact with these people so that they could help us put out the Carmel fire."
2. The Cabinet discussed the issue of rehabilitation and rebuilding in the wake of the Carmel wildfire and decided as follows:

A. A steering committee will be established, chaired by Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Eyal Gabai and with the participation of his counterparts from the Finance, Health, Public Security, Interior, Justice, Tourism, Construction and Housing, Social Welfare and Social Services, Environmental Protection and Agriculture and Rural Development ministries, along with representatives of the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Management Authority. The committee will formulate a plan to remove impediments in the process of repairing the damages of the Carmel wildfire and restoring normal life.

B. Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, in cooperation with Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Shalom Simhon, the Finance Ministry, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Jewish National Fund, will formulate and present to the Steering Committee, within 21 days, a plan to rehabilitate the animal and plant life that was damaged by the fire, including campgrounds, animal parks and the Carmel Farm. The plan will include – inter alia – detailed means, costs, sources and timetables and will specify which bodies will be responsible for its implementation.

C. The Prime Minister’s Office Division for Coordination, Follow-up and Control, in coordination with the Interior, Finance, Construction and Housing, National Infrastructures and Environmental Protection ministries, will formulate and present, to the Steering Committee, within seven days, a municipal assistance plan. The plan will include – inter alia – compensation for the local councils for expenditures and damages that were incurred by the fire and which are not covered by any kind of insurance, as well as an aid package for the communities that were hurt. The financial compensation and aid will provide responses to – inter alia – expenditures incurred in evacuating and absorbing populations (lodging, food, transportation, etc.), operating emergency networks, participating in the firefighting, cleaning up and repairing infrastructures (water, electricity, sewage, highways, lighting, etc.), as well as providing assistance to residents via the municipal services necessary in wake of the fire. This assistance will apply to cases in which damage, even partial, is not covered by valid insurance policies. In the first stage, the Finance Ministry will allocate NIS 60 million for the aid package. The Steering Committee will consider additional budgetary allocations should these become necessary.

D. Transportation and Road Safety Minister Yisrael Katz will map the transportation infrastructure that has been damaged and formulate a plan for its rehabilitation. The plan will be submitted to the Steering Committee within seven days, for approval and implementation.

E. The Cabinet noted the statement by Social Welfare and Social Services Minister Yitzhak Herzog regarding the reinforcement of the social welfare and social services network in the areas affected by the fire. Minister Herzog will continue to reinforce the various social welfare and social service activities and formulate and present, to the Steering Committee, in coordination with the Health, Finance, Pensioner Affairs, Culture and Sport ministries, as well as the National Insurance Institute and the relevant local councils, a plan to rehabilitate and strengthen citizens, local councils and communities that were affected by the fire, while emphasizing the strengthening of local community leadership and assistance to special-needs populations. The plan will be submitted within seven days and will include – inter alia – budgetary frameworks, means costs and timetables, and will specify which bodies will be responsible for its implementation.

The Social Welfare and Social Services Ministry will coordinate the Government’s work with the voluntary organizations regarding social services.

F. The Finance Ministry’s Government Housing Administration and the Construction and Housing Ministry will, immediately, as per the planning and building laws, station mobile structures in communities in which homes and public structures were burnt. This is so as to facilitate the immediate return of residents, whose homes were burnt, to their communities. The GHA will formulate and present, to the Steering Committee, within 60 days, a policy regarding the future evacuation of the mobile structures.

G. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz will submit, to the Steering Committee, within four days, a map of the various damages caused as a result of the fire and the relevant details regarding private, public and Government insurance coverage. The Finance Minister will also formulate and submit, to the Steering Committee, within an additional four days, the outline of an efficient policy for providing a fair and quick response to implementing the policies, as well regarding damages that were not fully insured.

3. The Cabinet noted that Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided to appoint Tamir Pardo to succeed Meir Dagan as Director of the Mossad, effective 1 January 2011, for a five-year term.

4. The Cabinet held a further discussion of the national plan to ‘bring minds’ back to Israel.

5. The Cabinet decided that upon the conclusion of the transfer of the responsibilities of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry’s Unit for Foreign Workers to the Interior Ministry’s Population, Migration and Border Crossings Administration, the authority of the responsible official (as per Article 1 of the 1991 Foreign Workers Law) will be vested in the Population Administration Director.