Dec 8, 2010 4:33 pm


Fairly or unfairly, leaders are made or unmade during emergencies. George W. Bush grasped was made by 9/11 and unmade during Katrina. Barack Obama was unmade by the Gulf oil spill. In Israel Ehud Olmert was unmade by the second Lebanon War. Benjamin Netanyahu is being made by his brilliant response to the Carmel mega fire. He has set clear goals, acted with decisiveness, dispatch and caring. Unlike Olmert, he repeatedly demonstrated solidarity with the burning North. Not only did he visit with the first respondents, flew over the affected area but had his cabinet meet in one of the formerly evacuated towns.

Life and property first. Forrest second. False dignity last. It is no disgrace to ask for help, he said. His people were delighted to discover that Israel is not as isolated and reviled as they have feared. Even Muslim countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and the PA sent help and good wishes. Recriminations and finger pointing should be put off until the fire is extinguished, he insisted.

Nor was it all for show. Within a couple of days, the Israeli air force was busy coordinating over 30 fire fighting planes of different sizes from half a dozen countries. Then, there was the renting of the supertanker, The Evergreen

Saturday afternoon, it was called to the prime minister's attention that there is a plane with night-time firefighting capabilities. The Evergreen Supertanker, a Boeing 747, with nearly double the capacity of the Russian giants, is the world's biggest. I want it, Netanyahu said. Where will the funding come from, his military secretary asked him."We'll find it," said the prime minister. It costs $200,000 an hour to operate. Within an hour there was a rental contract with the Arizona-based company, and by 2:30 a.m. the massive aircraft had rumbled in.

Regardless of the media's best efforts, he kept to keep the nation united and focused on the job at hand. It was not easy. The Druz were defensive. Their youngsters were to blame and their villages were in the line of fire. Arsonists trying to make matters worse, lit fires all over the country. Netanyahu held his tongue. In dark grey, he even looked right.

The country responded as it always does. Everybody offered to help. Volunteerism was evident everywhere. Arab and Hasidic villages rushed to offer food and shelter to the evacuees as did hotel chains and Galilee bed and breakfasts. There was nothing unique in the actions of the 16 year old volunteer fire fighter who lost his life trying to save those of others.

My son of my sister's neighbor is studying dentistry in the Ukraine. Missing his family and girl friend he returned to Israel for a week. Within hours of his return he joined a medical unit fighting the consequences of the fire.

Israel is getting hotter and drier. It is also committed to reforestation. Next time it will be better prepared because It is time to stop waiting for wake up calls. They cost too many precious lives and valued treasure.

Still, emergencies happen. Netanyahu's leadership provided Israel and the world with an opportunity to act according to their best nature. Hanukkah Miracle or not, the fire is out and Israel has been able to bid farewell to foreign firefighting teams

Also see, The leaders' response / Bibi and Hezi act

Walla Poll: Netanyahu strengthened following the Carmel Fire, Public satisfied of rapid response to crisis

Jpost/Smith poll: PM Netanyahu and Likud ministers get high Good performing grades

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