On Thursday, family members of those who had lost their loved ones in the Mount Meron disaster in 2021 criticized former premier of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, as did his political rivals. This was after he appeared in front of a state commission inquiry and ducked responsibility for the worst civilian disaster that occurred under his leadership.
Bereaved family members speak
Yisrael Diskin lost his brother in the Meron disaster and said that during the 12 years that Netanyahu served in office, government ministries had been aware of the dangers, but had not paid any attention to them. He said that the answers of the former premier were not satisfactory because his claim that he had not been aware of the safety risks was itself worrying.
Netanyahu had given testimony earlier on Thursday and claimed that he did not have any knowledge of the safety concerns associated with the annual event that had taken place during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. Netanyahu said that he could only address the epidemiological disaster that was in front of him and couldn’t do anything about something he didn’t know.
Mount Meron disaster
The Meron disaster occurred in northern Israel at the religious festival in April 2021 and is the worst one to have occurred in Israel’s entire history. The festivities were attended by about 100,000 people, most of whom were ultra-orthodox Jews. They had attended the event, even though there had been a number of warnings about the site’s safety.
According to numerous media reports, the political allies belonging to the ultra-orthodox parties, had pressured Netanyahu to give approval for the event, despite the concerns of crowding. Before the event, the former prime minister had a meeting with ultra-Orthodox lawmakers for removing all the restrictions placed on the site in return for their support on legislation.
At that time, there had been COVID-19 restrictions on outdoor gatherings, which meant that special approval had to be obtained for the event. But, Netanyahu said that his actions did not have any political motivations.
Rivals speak out
Matan Kahana, the Deputy Religious Affairs Minister, also gave a speech at the Knesset plenum and took responsibility for the mistakes that occurred. He lashed out at Netanyahu for not doing the same. He said that someone who was not willing to do so should not lead the country, referring to Netanyahu’s aim of becoming the premier again after this year’s election.
Avigdor Liberman, the Finance Minister, also mocked the leader of the opposition for his claim of not being aware of the safety risks at Mount Meron. He said that the former prime minister was also not aware of the Holocaust survivors, the elderly, the difficulties of the IDF soldiers, the social worker as well as the disabled.
He was referring to the groups that have made headlines because of their hardships in recent years. He said that Netanyahu had not known about any of it, yet their government had given them grants and salary increases in just a year.