Israel Police Chief Accused of Dismissing Safety Concerns Before Meron Disaster

YERUSHALAYIM -
Shimon Nachmani, head of the Operations Division of the Israeli Police, testifying before the Meron Disaster Inquiry Committee, in Yerushalayim, Sunday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A senior Israeli police official pointed the finger of blame for last year’s disaster at Mount Meron at Insp.-Gen. Kobi Shabtai, whom he said had dismissed warnings about the potential for tragedy on Lag BaOmer.

Testifying before the state commission of inquiry on Sunday, Police Operations Division Cmdr. Shimon Nachmani said he had tried to warn chief Shabtai of the danger, but to no avail.

“I was very disturbed by the decision not to limit the volume of the public” attending since “the site cannot hold that many,” Nachmani testified, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“The extent to which things are squished there is out of control. I said to the police chief that we are obligated to do a field tour of the site. He responded: ‘Don’t worry, any state inquiry is on me.’”

Shabtai, like other officials, have blamed the decision to allow unlimited attendance and the subsequent disaster on everyone and everything but themselves. Shabtai himself said his hands were tied, that he was bound to follow instructions from then-public security minister Amir Ohana.

Nachmani’s testimony paints a different picture.

Nahmani also said that Shabtai blocked his promotion due to allegations that he was leaking information to the commission of inquiry that implicated Shabtai in the tragedy. Shabtai denied this on Sunday, insisting that all personnel decisions in the Police are made on a strictly professional basis.