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What Israel Lost in the Fire

Prestige hurt, but Turkish diplomacy is back

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The fire-scarred forest of northern Israel.(Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

The biggest and deadliest forest fire in Israel’s history has been brought under control after four days. The immediate toll: 42 deaths (including Israel’s highest-ranked policewoman), 10,000 acres of forest in the north, 4 million trees (though the Jewish National Fund guessed 5 million—so be extra-sure to plant one next time you’re over there). Presumably the financial cost was not insignificant—to take one example, renting the largest firefighting plane in the world, a retrofitted American-made 747 awesomely called the Evergreen Supertanker, can’t have been cheap.

The more lasting, geopolitical results of the fire are less knowable, although the time does feel pregnant. Israel’s prestige has been harmed, as it was clearly unequal to the task of stopping the fire on its own. (Interior Minister Eli Yishai, of the ultra-religious Shas Party, denied responsibility for the unpreparedness.) In another way, the fire provided an opportunity for a moment of good will in the international community for a nation not used to that, with 10 foreign countries (including the United States) sending aid. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas held a rare phone conversation so that condolences could be offered for the deaths, most of which were of prison-guard trainees whose bus got caught in the inferno; this is likely the first time they have spoken since September. And then there is the Turkey situation.

Turkey sent firefighting planes to help, prompting a thank-you call from Netanyahu to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan—which is even more rare, and more unlikely, than Netanyahu and Abbas talking—in turn prompting a diplomatic meeting in Switzerland between Israeli and Turkish diplomats with the objective of restoring Turkey’s Israeli ambassador, who was withdrawn following the Memorial Day Weekend flotilla fiasco (in which nine Turkish nationals died). But a deal will require an apology from Israel, and it is not yet clear that Israel is ready to offer one. (Incidentally, if you didn’t catch them last month, our Turkey Week articles are worth consulting.)

Meanwhile, they think they know who caused the fire: Two Druze teenagers, who were arrested over the weekend, are suspected of negligence in setting the blaze. That is, unless you believe Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual guide to the interior minister’s Shas Party, who implied that the blaze occurred because of a lack of observance: “Fires only happen in a place where Shabbat is desecrated,” he declared. “Homes were ruined, entire neighborhoods wiped out, and it is not arbitrary. It is all divine providence.” Call Jerry Falwell—somebody stole his schtick.

Israel Says Fires Are Under Control [NYT]
Interior Minister Denies Responsibility for Lack of Firefighting Resources [Haaretz]
Israeli, Turkish Diplomats Meet in Geneva in Effort to Repair Relations [Haaretz]
2 Druze Teens Arrested for Carmel Fire [Arutz Sheva]
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Fires Only Happen Where Shabbat Is Desecrated [JPost/Vos Iz Neias?]

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I’m not quite sure how to read this article of your’s Marc Tracy. Kind of tongue in cheek and mostly very sad for me when you consider the extent of the tragedy and the numbers of lives lost, the lands that are left blacken and burnt, the numbers of animals displaced, the homes razed and the hundreds of orphans from Yemin Orde who were left with almost nothing in tact. One would think from your flippant article that this entire fire was comparable to a kind of silly vaudeville act. It wasn’t… this was one very serious event that effected the lives of thousands of people and will continue to do so for years to come. As for Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, perhaps you should also be careful how you quote what he said… yes he said fires happen but not only in places where Shabbat is desecrated.. fires happen because Shabbat is desecrated and he called upon the religious community to be more stringent about Shabbat observance. I don’t think that’s a bad thing — whether or not you observe Shabbat.

Dorothy Wachsstock says:

Jews are different is what Marc Tracy suggests. We, the United States send aid to many countrys for various problems. Earthquakes, Explosions and terrorists attacks in other countrys, we send help. Yet,Tracy has to bring out that it is something special if we send aid to Isael.

It is about time that Israel is treated like other countrys and stop going after them just because it is a Jewish State.

I realize that the Israelis think they can do everything themselves but there are no big time Jews from Hollywood or New York that will make a telethon for a new Fire dept is there?

Yet, plenty of Jews make telethons for hundreds of other countrys for the slightest reason.

Time that Jews start to help Israel before this Pres. gives Israel to Abbas.

The Palestinians are now saying they want the Western Wall but we have not heard much about it, have we?

Let us Jews take care of our own before we help others.

Turkey was just cited for wink and a nod “Turkey greenlighted smuggling of nuke components to Iran”.


Turkey is an islamist nation now and has withdrawn from NATO in all but name while UNDOUBTEDLY aiding it’s regional ally (Iran).

While they wanted to pursue this path anyway (evidence 2003 and the 4th Division), and the people SUPPORT this path, there can also be no doubt that Obama’s ideas and actions have hastened this.

I was just searching for this info for a while. After six hours of continuous Googleing, finally I got it in your web site. I wonder what’s the lack of Google strategy that don’t rank this kind of informative web sites in top of the list. Usually the top web sites are full of garbage.

I’ve said that least 1622577 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

Francois Delsarte~ The object of art is to crystallize emotion into thought and then fix it in form.


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What Israel Lost in the Fire

Prestige hurt, but Turkish diplomacy is back

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