אביגדור ליברמן בריאיון בזום
Yuval Karni
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman

Meron disaster probe can't be left to a toothless watchdog

Opinion: State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman's announcement he intends to investigate the Lag BaOmer stampede serves Netanyahu, who, alongside the political echelon, will most likely won't be held responsible

Yuval Karni |
Published: 05.04.21 , 23:47
During a press conference on Monday morning, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman announced he had decided to launch a comprehensive and thorough investigation into the Mount Meron disaster, in which 45 people were killed.
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  • Englman, who was appointed as state watchdog in 2019 thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, is the first state official to announce an investigation into the disaster.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    מתניהו אנגלמן וצוותי הביקורת לאחר האסון
    מתניהו אנגלמן וצוותי הביקורת לאחר האסון
    State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman
    (Photo: Effie Shrir)
    The timing of said announcement, however, is especially peculiar.
    On Monday, a debate took place in Knesset about who will run the investigation into the Meron disaster.
    Among the various possibilities is a state commission of inquiry in which everyone (including the political echelons) will be exposed to investigation, a government inquiry and the state comptroller.
    Monday’s headline on Ynet's sister publication Yedioth Ahronoth read that “Netanyahu is looking for the most convenient investigation for him." i.e. an investigation by his buddy Engelman.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Medics and rescue workers attend to the Lag B'Omer event in Mount Meron
    Medics and rescue workers attend to the Lag B'Omer event in Mount Meron
    Medics and rescue workers at the Lag BaOmer event on Mount Meron
    (Photo: Reuters)
    And what do you know, before the debate on who will investigate Israel’s worst civil disaster to date has even concluded, Englman announced that he has decided to investigate the stampede on Mount Meron.
    Englman is a toothless watchdog, a clear Netanyahu appointee, who ensured that the role would not be manned by a powerful and authoritative Supreme Court judge as was in years prior.
    Netanyahu, who saw the state comptroller's office as just another hurdle in his fight to weaken the country’s law and audit institutions, cut a deal with Arab lawmakers to make sure Engelman will be appointed.
    For years, the state comptroller position was manned by those who would give no quarter to the political echelon.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Netanyahu
    Netanyahu
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Prime ministers, ministers, corrupt politicians, left-wingers, right-wingers, opposition and coalition. All feared the biting and uncensored reports of past state watchdogs.
    Engelman, though, managed to make several controversial decisions during his short tenure, all of which benefited his patron, Netanyahu.
    About two months ago, it was reported in Haaretz that staff at the comptroller's office ruled that Netanyahu broke the law by holding a political conference at the Prime Minister's Residence in the run-up to the Likud primaries in 2019.
    These same professionals wrote that Netanyahu should be fined. Engelman, however, was content with leaving Netanyahu with a mere slap on the wrist.
    In another state comptroller report, which dealt with the Communications Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office, expressions such as "government failure" and "structural failure" were omitted from the draft report.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Rescue workers from the United Hatzalah volunteer service trying to treat the injured during the Meron disaster
    Rescue workers from the United Hatzalah volunteer service trying to treat the injured during the Meron disaster
    Rescue workers from the United Hatzalah volunteer service trying to treat the injured during the Meron disaster
    (Photo: United Hatzalah)
    As for Engelman’s announcement of his investigation, it is doubly helpful for Netanyahu.
    It gives the prime minister a comfortable and flexible auditor, while also weakening the struggle to establish a state inquiry, a government inquiry or any other kind of inquiry that might actually target its slings and arrows at the political echelon and at Netanyahu, in particular.
    It goes without saying, the Meron disaster deserves to be investigated by an institution or audit body that will not go easy on anyone, politicians included.
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