On September 11, 2001, then-Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon refused to go to a bomb shelter when told of the attack on the World Trade Center, The Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday, the fifteenth anniversary of the epochal event.
Sharon’s chief of staff Uri Shani passed him a note during a security cabinet meeting informing him that a plane had crashed into the first tower of the WTC in New York. Sharon interruped the meeting and went to a side room.
Shortly thereafter, Shin-Bet agents rushed in and urged Sharon to head down to a bomb shelter, because of concerns that Israel might also be on the list of terrorist targets that day.
Sharon would not take cover, but he called off a ceremonial appearance in Kiryat Malachi in order to deal with the crisis.
“We got ready for the possibility of attacks on Israel,” said Shani, who now advises Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. “We didn’t know the extent of what was happening. There could have been planes taken over on the way to Israel. There was chaos in the U.S., and we didn’t want to be on the way.”
When Air Force commander Dan Halutz requested prior authorization to shoot down any plane that might be flying to the Azrieli Towers or another sensitive location in Israel, to save time if it happened, Sharon said no.
“Sharon refused to give the order,” Shani recalled. “He was so calm. He told [Halutz]: If there will be a problem come to me.”
In an ironical footnote, the day before, September 10, had been a chaotic day in which nothing went according to plan. Sharon advisor Erez Halfon had promised his boss that the next day that would be different. But things didn’t go according to plan on September 11 either.