Finance Committee Discusses Meron Disaster; Several MKs Call Upon Public Security Minister to Resign

Jews visit the site where 45 victims were killed in Meron on Lag BaOmer. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Chairman of the Finance Committee MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said at the start of Tuesday’s meeting dealing with the disaster at Mt. Meron: “I deliberated a bit [whether to hold the meeting] during this period of warfare in Gaza and everything that goes along with it, but I thought that we should continue whatever we can — in accordance with the Home Front Command guidelines — to continue life and not postpone it. We will hold discussions today and tomorrow as planned. We extend condolences for those who were killed and wish a speedy recovery to the injured. We pray to G-d that this bloodshed will stop and peace and quiet will be restored here.”

As for the subject under discussion, Rabbi Gafni said: “The issue of Mt. Meron is one that has come before the Knesset many times. Discussions on this matter have been held many times. In the past, I proposed — and the Knesset Plenum approved — a parliamentary commission of inquiry, which came to nothing because elections were called. This was during [Ehud] Olmert’s term as prime minister; everyone knew that there would be a disaster, they just didn’t know when. They knew that on a mountain without room, with a lot of people, it would happen, and the State of Israel stands by as if it doesn’t concern it. The equivalent of this is the Kosel, where they made a huge plaza and a dignified site for visitors, and all according to authorizations and guidelines — which is something that doesn’t happen at Mt. Meron. The state never intervened; at most they gave some money. The route is unacceptable; the roads are unacceptable; the access is unacceptable. I won’t quote things I said over the years, that if there is a security incident then the reality will be indescribable. There’s no room there; they permit people to come — it’s the second most popular tourist site and people go there from all over the world. And it’s as if the state stands by. This cannot continue as it is; if they want to close down the site, let them make a decision with the entire Jewish world in mind. If they decide to leave it open, then money has to be invested there and the whole place has to be regulated.”

MK Etty Hava Atia (Likud): “I was in touch with the families, and I heard from them that the process and the wait were long at the National Center of Forensic Medicine [at Abu Kabir]. This needs to be checked, and a discussion should be held on the matter.”

Rabbi Gafni: “The size of the center is not suitable today when there’s a multi-casualty event, and it is painful for the families. This is not something about which we can just say, ‘It will be fine.’ As those who oversee the work of the government, we can’t leave the situation as it is.”

MK Rabbi Yitzchak Pindrus (United Torah Judaism): “We are facing an insane reality. The Knesset is supposed to oversee the government, but wherever you look, things aren’t working. On the Mt. Meron issue no one is taking responsibility, the government is not taking responsibility as a government. I submitted a parliamentary question to the minister of public security regarding the process at Abu Kabir and the transition to there, and the minister answered that he can’t respond because it’s under investigation. So if we form a commission of inquiry, we won’t be able to get answers for 20 years. If that is the situation, let him resign and return when the commission of inquiry is finished, because he can’t do anything, and he’s not to blame, of course. The police are not responsible, the public security minister is not responsible and can’t answer because the matter is under investigation, the Health Ministry  is not responsible. So maybe the Knesset needs to replace the government; the police should not be functioning the way it is in Lod and Yerushalayim. The State of Israel has no police, it has no Center of Forensic Medicine in Abu Kabir, and there’s no minister because he’s not to blame, he’s only responsible. I am already urging the commission to call upon the minister to lay the keys on the table and go home.”

MK Mossi Raz (Meretz): “I agree with MK Pindrus’s statement that the minister should lay down the keys. I share the sorrow of the families in these disasters, and the sorrow of the families during Operation [Guardian of the Walls] in Israel and in Gaza. It should be examined who is responsible in each ministry — not for the sake of prosecuting, although that too may be necessary — but mainly in order to prevent the next disaster.”

MK Yoav Segalovitz (Yesh Atid): “There has been a Prime Minister here for 12 years; there are problems in the government, but it can’t be ignored that the police have been weakened for the past two-and-a-half years. The meeting should end in a recommendation by the committee to form a state commission of inquiry. There will not be a real examination of this matter, there is only one body that can examine these things in depth — how to deal with all these events. The Prime Minister should propose a governmental commission of inquiry.”

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