Government in Uproar Over Who Runs Coronavirus

Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The coronavirus crisis, which was officially the reason for Likud and Blue and White agreeing to form an “emergency government,” emerged on Thursday as the very issue that might precipitate collapse of the coalition and another round of elections.

A meeting on Thursday blew up over Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s proposal that his ministry take over the government’s coronavirus policies. Gantz asserted that “the entire operation should move to the Defense Ministry.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ fumed: “I understand exactly what’s happening here. It’s politics. If this continues like this, it will only lead to one place,” he said, according to Kan news. It said that the PM then abruptly ended the meeting and summoned coronavirus cabinet to approve revised restrictions.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) likewise rejected the Gantz proposal. Edelstein said that while the IDF and Home Front Command are “dear partners of ours,” the idea of having them take over the coronavirus response is “engaging in politics at the expense of Israeli citizens.”

Currently, the Health Ministry tracks the spread of the coronavirus in the country and makes recommendations to the cabinet, which makes final decisions whether or not to implement them. Implementation is then divided among the Health Ministry, the police and IDF.

Edelstein was responding directly to a comment made by Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay (Blue and White), who claimed that had the Defense Ministry been in charge there could have been 25,000 tests a day and results within 12 hours.

Health Minister Deputy Director-General Itamar Grotto dismissed Shay’s comment as “populism.”

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