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Gantz asks A-G to support prompt state investigation

CM 02/05/2021

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Alternate Prime Minister and Justice Minister Benny Gantz on Sunday asked that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit support the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into Friday’s Lag Ba’omer disaster at Mount Meron in which 45 people were killed and more than 150 were injured.Gantz underlined that he believed only a state inquiry could fully get to the bottom of the tragedy and ensure there would be no repeat, but Mandelblit’s support was needed since the current government a transitional administration.Transitional governments that carry on in power until a new government is formed usually after elections, traditionally execute fewer decisions than those that have gained the confidence of the Knesset.Over the last two years, Mandelblit has noted exceptions to this rule if there is an imperative non-political need.In a letter to Mandelblit, Gantz wrote: “Only a state commission of inquiry will be able to evaluate all the different perspectives to understand the disaster, since it would have the widest possible authority and tools to formulate the necessary recommendations.”Only such a state inquiry can summon the various ministers who had a hand in the event,” he wrote.Gantz added that the commission should be led by a judge appointed by the Supreme Court president to ensure its independence. State commissions of inquiry are normally chaired by a Supreme Court justice.

Various NGOs and former senior police officers have already started calling for such a commission.UTJ Party leader Moshe Gafni on Sunday night told Channel 12 he has for years been demanding that the government invest millions of shekels in the site to make it safer.Asked whether an alternative to investing more funds would be to limit the number of attendees, Gafni said secular Jews gather in large numbers at stadiums and at rallies in parks. Haredim also should be allowed to hold large events, but that there should be more funds invested in safety.Gafni and former Bayit Yehudi MK Zevulun Orlev, among others, did flag the safety issue at Mount Meron and pushed for some of the previous state comptrollers’ reports on the issue.Both in 2008 and 2011, the State Comptroller warned of dangerous safety deficiencies at Mount Meron generally, and on Lag Ba’omer in particular.Interior Minister Arye Deri could come under fire since he placed heavy pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the police to allow unlimited attendance at this year’s Lag Ba’omer celebration.One twist in the controversy is that the Supreme Court has been involved in trying to arbitrate between groups, including the Finance Ministry, when led by Yair Lapid in 2013, on the one hand, and rabbinic officials in charge of the country’s holy places, on the other.Public Security Minister Amir Ohana may try to shift blame from himself and the police to the Supreme Court, Channel 12 reported Sunday night.
Source: Jerusalem Post

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