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Sunday, 27 May, 2001, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Israeli press sees 'rot and pathos'
Rescue workers in ruins of Jerusalem wedding hall
Gaping hole in Versailles Hall
Sunday's Israeli newspapers led on the collapse of the Versailles banquet hall in Jerusalem, and were united in condemning poor regulation of the construction industry.

In the centrist mass-circulation Tel Aviv newspaper Yedioth Aharonot, Yig'al Sarna wrote: "What happened in Jerusalem bears the characteristics of a typical Third World disaster: greed, lax enforcement, corrupt inspectors, powerful contractors, and shoddy materials.

No terrorist attack has ever wrought such a terrible disaster on the city

Yig'al Sarna, in Yedioth Aharonot
"All these are always enveloped in the pathos of the rulers. The greater the rot, the stronger the pathos."

In the independent Tel Aviv mass-circulation newspaper Ma'ariv, Hemi Shalev wrote that Israelis "automatically and collectively translated the collapse of the building into a self-evident national parable" on a 'fatal flaw' in the Israeli personality.

"We are a civilized democracy with a faulty political system which entrusts vital aspects of our lives to inadequate people... We are a wild people, devoid of sound judgment, as was amply proven again by last night's ruckus in a Haifa soccer stadium.

"We scorn meticulousness, mock precision, idolize sloppiness, and worship making a quick buck, at all costs. Nobody in this country, from the prime minister down, is held accountable for his blunders," he wrote.

City council blasted

The conservative Jerusalem Post, which broadly supports Mayor Ehud Olmert, blamed the lack of initiative in the bureaucracy.

The greatest threat to people's lives might prove to be no further than the ceiling above them

The Jerusalem Post
"Until a way is found to inject Israel's laggard bureaucratic system with new energy and vigour, the greatest threat to people's lives might very well prove to be no further than the ceiling right above them."

A correspondent of Tel Aviv's liberal Ha'aretz laid into Mayor Olmert for having presided over years of neglect in building regulation, and for using the relevant department as a "punitive enforcement branch" in Arab East Jerusalem.

In the meantime he had ignored "reams of documents testifying to the department's crooked bent in the city's Jewish areas", the paper said.

A 'Pal-Kal Country'

Introducing a note of savage satire, the rightwing Tel Aviv newspaper Hatzofe, which is affiliated to the National Religious Party, penned an imaginary letter from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to his deputies.

Wreckage of Versailles Hall, Jerusalem
Collapsing new building
The imaginary Mr Arafat is shown laughing at Israel for being a "Pal-Kal country", in reference to the engineering system used to build the Versailles hall.

"It's a Third World country at its worst. They work in a half-assed way wherever they can... and they still don't understand that they cannot afford to have war, a Versailles, and soccer riots.

"Well, as long as they go on like this, we can stop killing them. They do it much better on their own."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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27 May 01 | Middle East
Nine held over building collapse
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