United Torah Judaism (UTJ) MK Meir Porush demanded sole control over preparations for the annual Lag Ba’omer hillula (death anniversary) on Mount Meron, where 45 people were trampled to death in 2021, as part of coalition agreement negotiations with the Likud on Sunday.
Porush, who is expected to be named the new Jerusalem affairs minister, also wants responsibility for carrying out the conclusions to be laid out by the commission of inquiry into the Meron Disaster, which is set to resume on December 13 when prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu responds to a letter of warning issued in August.
This is despite the ultra-Orthodox MK's previous public opposition to the commission's formation, which he claimed will "corrupt the organized haredi public in Israel."
Porush could defy state inquiry recommendations, sources say
If the responsibility for the Meron pilgrimage is given solely to Porush, who is a representative of the smaller hassidic sects within Agudat Yisrael, there is concern that he will go against some of the commission's recommendations, according to sources. Porush could reportedly approve the lighting of more bonfires than was previously recommended.
In August, the state inquiry issued its first official letters of warning of negligence or legal wrongdoing placing the blame on Netanyahu, former public security minister Amir Ohana, Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai, former religious services minister Yaakov Avitan and several other police, government and safety officials.
Much of the approximately 18-month inquiry has revolved around failures by the engineers, religious affairs and police officials involved to ensure that the structures around Meron were safe and the site was not overwhelmed.
But the inquiry has also questioned top political officials, all of whom had been holding their breath about whether the inquiry would place the blame on them during an election season for the Mount Meron disaster on Lag Ba’omer in 2021 when 45 people were trampled to death.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.