Politics or Paranoia? Gantz: PM Spreading Coronavirus Rumors to Discourage Voters

Employees adjust a “sterile” polling station set up by Israel’s election committee so Israelis in isolation over coronavirus concerns will be able to vote on election day, during a demonstration for the media, in Shoham. (Reuters/Nir Elias)

A mini-scare over coronavirus in the central Israeli town of Givatayim became the vehicle for the dissemination of a “conspiracy theory” by Blue and White head Benny Gantz – who said that the Health Ministry had warned against the possible appearance of coronavirus in the town in order to discourage Blue and White supporters from coming out to the polls.

The story began Sunday morning, after an individual who was suspected of carrying coronavirus visited a doctor’s office at the Givatayim Mall. The individual had recently returned from the United States with a stopover in Italy – and was suffering from flu-like symptoms that could be attributed to coronavirus. A doctor at the Clalit doctor’s office where the patient was examined ordered that the floor where the office was located be closed, and all those in the office at the time be examined for coronavirus infection.

Meanwhile, word spread around the mall that a coronavirus victim was “running around loose,” causing dozens of people in the mall to run out. The Health Ministry later confirmed the examination, but said that the situation was under control, and that there was no reason not to visit the mall.

The “rumor” regarding coronavirus spreading at the mall was apparently done on purpose, Gantz wrote. “This is how Netanyahu intends to prevent [our supporters] from coming out to vote – with the ‘coronavirus method.’” The rumor, he said, was “blown out of proportion by the Health Ministry, which worked much more quickly to shut the mall down even when it became clear there was no coronavirus in the mall.

“That did not interfere with Likud propagandists from pushing the story with all their resources, and emphasize over and over that ‘there is coronavirus in Givatayim. Why Givatayim? Because it is a stronghold of Blue and White support. This is exactly what they plan to do tomorrow. Binyamin Netanyahu plans to interfere with the elections and to spread fake news in all areas where Blue and White is strong, so you will stay home. There are no limits on the red lines he is willing to cross. He realizes that if we come out to vote he will lose, so he will do everything he can to make sure you stay home,” Gantz wrote.

In response, the Likud said in its own social media post that “Gantz is acting in a ridiculous manner. There will be a cure for coronavirus long before he is able to form a government without the help of Ahmed Tibi. We are one mandate away from victory that will prevent fourth elections, or a dangerous government that will be dependent on Tibi.”