Monday September 1, 2014
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01.09.2014
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Dan Margalit

Fate and ministerial responsibility

The report issued by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on the Carmel forest fire provides decisive proof of his innovative school of thought, according to which he decided that he would not just deal with the past but also with the present, so that his reports can serve the executive branch in real time.

In his seventh and final year on the job, Lindentsrauss can boast a long line of well-founded and dramatic reports that have played a central role in purifying the country of its abscesses of corruption, laziness of mind and crippling routine. That is not to say that his reports are devoid of errors, and in some cases serious ones. Yet, overall, they have greatly improved public conduct in a country that has grown to worship material wealth.

The report on the Carmel fire serves as an additional link in this chain of innovative oversight. It also teaches us about the danger of maintaining the status quo in factories and other sensitive places that could become flash points in the event of an emergency or conflict with an enemy.

Truth be told, fate played a part in this affair, which is likely to end with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and three others bearing ministerial responsibility for the disaster. After all, if someone had thought to stop what began as a small fire in a remote village, the fire service would never have been reformed. The minister in charge -- a different one each time -- would have bargained with Finance Ministry officials and gotten a few million more shekels to be invested in technological innovations that lag far behind those being used in the advanced world.

Netanyahu, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch will now have to provide the comptroller with some final answers, perhaps with the help of a seasoned lawyer. They will be joined by a large group of officials whose erroneous actions and incredible faults also reflected the ministers' conduct during the fierce battle between man and fire. The conclusions drawn from the report are broader than the subject it addresses directly, and are more psychological than budgetary. They seek to force those in charge to operate with the utmost urgency even in times of calm.

Reform was never instituted in the fire service because it has always managed to lower flames using buckets of water and a thin rubber hose. Reform was also never instituted in the Magen David Adom emergency service, in the protection of the western Negev; in the completion of the separation fence in the West Bank, or in dismantling the concentration of wealth in our economy, because not one of those things has yet been charred in any test, like the trees that died on the Carmel.

The added value of the last six years, since Lindenstrauss' philosophy was born, has been in instilling a sense of emergency in the government, its ministers and officials, even before something dramatic has taken place.

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