Mandelblit Clears Gamliel of Serious Lockdown Violations; Receives Fine

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday cleared Environmental Minister MK Gila Gamliel (Likud) of the serious allegation of lying to the Health Ministry about her coronavirus status following her infection and violation of quarantine and lockdown rules.

The police had moved toward an initial probe of Gamliel on October 6 for allegedly violating multiple coronavirus-related laws. Only the attorney general has the authority to allow a probe of a minister to go forward.

Police Spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said at the time that the police were looking into the incident and examining what took place, including her movements, where she traveled and with whom she met.

Gamliel admitted then to violating limitations on movement during the lockdown. The more severe allegations relate to whether she actively misled the Health Ministry to further violate quarantine restrictions.

Mandelblit said that there was no evidence that she had lied about her status, and noted her confession and expression of regret about her actions.

The difference in violations is that some only carry a fine as a penalty, whereas others could carry several years in jail for lying to the Health Ministry and actively promoting the virus.

A poll taken when the scandal broke on Channel 12 news found that 76% of the public believes Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should fire Gamliel, 17% said not to fire her, and 7% said they don’t know.

Gamliel found herself in hot water after violating coronavirus lockdown restrictions by traveling some 150 kilometers (90 miles) from her Tel Aviv home to Teveria for Yom Kippur, before testing positive for the virus. She prayed at a beit knesset in Teveria run by her father-in-law, where some 20 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus following Yom Kippur.

It had been alleged that the minister attempted to hide the violation from the Health Ministry earlier during her epidemiological investigation, avoiding the ministry for hours and then saying that she caught the virus from her driver.

Gamliel has acknowledged wrongdoing and said she would pay an NIS 5,000 fine, but she is not expected to resign or be fired by Netanyahu.

Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu at the time expressed “disappointment” that Gamliel broke the Health Ministry’s regulations. He said that “an elected official should understand how this damages public trust.”

He added that “the public expect to see [leaders] are doing what is asked of them.”