How disaster can reveal the worst form of leadership!

Israel is coping with forest fires that any country would struggle to handle. Over 40 lives lost; 40,000 dunams of supreme woodlands ruined; an estimated billion shekels  (US$270 m) in various costs.

Exceptionally dry winter weather, some negligent kids and maybe a few arsonists have forced some heroic service staff to be even more heroic than normal. The Prime Minister has spent much of the past 3 days on site, directing operations. And yet……….

Let me clear. By all accounts these fires are extreme, even when compared to disasters in other countries. Again, firemen et al have been working for days with little rest. And yet……..

A country wants to feel safe. A country expects preparedness. A country wants to observe a government taking affirmative action. These fires have shown beyond all doubt just how much Israelis have been short-changed, for years, repeatedly.

First, it has  an established fact, going back to at least the 1998 Ginossar Commission, that the fire services have been poorly supervised at a political level; poor management and negligent budgets. Yup, that takes in several different ministers of alternative political persuasions. They took a chance that nothing serious would happen and ……….got it oh so woefully wrong.

Bottom line: Because nobody could argue for a few tens of millions of shekels every year, we now have a major humanitarian crisis on our hands. What comfort is it to know that the PM has just ordered the Finance Ministry to offer monetary aid without red tape. By the way, one bank has already said that it will delay mortgage repayments (on burnt down housing?)

And whilst the hoped-for fire engines and new equipment remained in the warehouses of manufacturers, how many interest groups received their extra does of expenditure; religious institutions, buildings for specific sectors, budgets for 30 government ministers when less than 20 are needed, etc etc:

Now more than ever we can say that Israel has a set of political leaders who have forgotten that power is not for the sake of power. They have to look after national interests and not just cater for their own private party affairs. This is a generation of talkers that has failed its electorate.

If one person demonstrates this sectorialism more than most, it is Eli Yishai. The Parliamentary leader of the ultraorthodox party, Shas, he is at his loudest when speaking on behalf of his constituency.  Officially, Yishai is in charge of the fire fighting services, as he is the Minister of Interior, a bureaucracy which has responsibility for many aspects of peoples’ daily life.

As the fires raged near Haifa, people were being evacuated from homes, and firemen were being treated for exhaustion, Eli Yishai spent the Sabbath at home in Jerusalem.

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One Comment on “How disaster can reveal the worst form of leadership!”


  1. […] a macro level, last week Israel needed international help to put out a raging forest fire. Nothing wrong in seeking assistance. However, the need to issue an SOS was sparked (pun intended) […]


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