Netanyahu Summoned to Testify in Front Mount Meron Investigation Committee

141 people testified before the committee investigating the disaster at the revelry in which 45 lives were lost. A string of witnesses claimed Netanyahu was involved in the decision not to limit the number of worshipers allowed in the compound

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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State Commission of Inquiry into the Meron disaster, Jerusalem, August.
State Commission of Inquiry into the Meron disaster, Jerusalem, August.Credit: יואב דודקביץ'
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to testify for the first time next month in front of the official investigation committee into the Mount Meron disaster, which claimed the lives of 45 people in April 2021.

The committee announced that the new coordinator of the revelry Tzvi Tessler will also testify, as well as the former chief of the National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat.

The decision to summon Netanyahu to testify was made after several witnesses who appeared in front of the committee spoke about his involvement in the decision not to limit the number of worshipers allowed into the compound on the night of the disaster, and even went as far as to promote moving forward with the event despite a police warning that it would not be able to enforce COVID restrictions in light of the expected turnout.

So far the committee heard from 141 witnesses, the last one being former minister Arye Dery. Since then the committee has not called any other witnesses.

Except for Netanyahu, all the politicians who were involved in the decision-making process ahead of the yearly pilgrimage, including ministers and lawmakers, have already testified in front of the committee.

Two of the former ministers who testified in front of the committee, Amir Ohana and Arye Dery, said Netanyahu held a discussion ahead of the disaster in which it was decided to have an "open event plan."

Yisrael Ozen, a former aide of Arye Dery and interior minister at the time of the disaster told the committee that Netanyahu was "under political pressure" to approve an outline that would not limit attendance at the event, leading him to become "hysterical."

"Lawmakers from United Torah Judaism asked him to do everything he can to approve the event without limitations," Ozen said.

One issue that may arise in the summoning of Netanyahu is his ties to two members of the committee.

For example, Maj. Gen. Shlomo Yanai served as the Israeli military representative at various meetings with Palestinian and U.S. officials during Netanyahu's first term as prime minister – when Yanai was head of the Israeli military's planning division. In 2010, it was announced that Netanyahu hoped to appoint Yanai to head the Mossad in place of Meir Dagan, who had recently retired.

Netanyahu also has ties to committee member Mordechai Karlitz, who previously served as the mayor of Bnei Brak. Netanyahu sent a letter of condolences to Karlitz following the passing of his father, Rabbi Nissim Karlitz. In the letter, he addresses Karlitz as his "My dear Rabbi Mordechai," and as his "friend, and calls on him to align his power to "establish a world of the Torah, to develop the city of Bnei Brak.."

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