State Commission blames Netanyahu and three other high-ranking Israeli officials for 2021 Meron stampede
03/11/2024 // Laura Harris // Views

An Israeli state inquiry has officially named Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as one of the officials responsible for the deadly 2021 Meron stampede that claimed the lives of 45 settlers in northern Israel. Mount Meron witnessed the tragic stampede during Lag B'Omer celebrations in April 2021 at the hilltop gravesite of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

After two and a half years of investigation, the committee headed by retired judge Dvora Berliner presented a 320-page report on March 6. The report identified Netanyahu, former public security minister and now Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, former religious service minister Yaakov Avitan and police chief Kobi Shabtai as responsible for the deadly stampede.

"There is a reasonable basis to conclude that Netanyahu knew that the site of Rashbi's grave was improperly dealt with for years and that it was liable to be a danger to the masses that visit the site, especially on Lag B’Omer. Even if, in the name of caution, we assume Netanyahu didn’t have concrete knowledge of the matter, he should have known about it after the issue was brought to his office many times. Therefore, Netanyahu’s claim that his attention wasn’t demanded cannot be accepted," said the report.

The report stated that the premier should have taken action to address the safety concerns at Meron at the time.

“Netanyahu did not act as expected of a prime minister to correct this state of affairs [at Meron], despite the fact that the issue was the focus of serious reports from the state comptroller and involved several ministries and was brought to the government table on several occasions over the years,” the commission said.

But contrary to the decision for Ohana, Yaakov and Shabtai, the commission refrained from proposing sanctions for Netanyahu due to his current position.

Netanyahu denies all accusations and charges against him

According to several reports, Netanyahu faced pressure from ultra-Orthodox allies at the time to allow the event without attendance limits, despite safety concerns. In exchange for support for certain legislation, Netanyahu agreed to remove all restrictions after meeting with ultra-Orthodox lawmakers before the event.

However, Netanyahu, already facing corruption, bribery and breach of trust charges, along with accusations of failing to address concerns leading up to the Meron tragedy and the recent Gaza war, has been consistently and vehemently denying all charges and accusations against him. (Related: Netanyahu accuses the entire world of anti-semitism.)

In response to the report, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid warned the public that "the next disaster is only a matter of time" if Netanyahu remains in office. Lapid, a vocal critic of the prime minister, accused Netanyahu of endangering the state of Israel, particularly since the Gaza war began in October.

Benny Gantz, former defense minister and opposition leader, praised the commission's report as "a life-saving report that should be studied in all government ministries."

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Watch this report on how Israel has degenerated under Netanyahu.

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