Leaked Cabinet Recordings Reveal Angry, Chaotic Meeting

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz at a weekly cabinet meeting earlier in the pandemic. (Amit Shabi/POOL)

An Israeli public wearily familiar with reports of internal government wrangling over politics and policies, was served up something new on Sunday night—leaked recordings of an acrimonious Cabinet meeting at which decisions were made about lifting the nationwide shutdown.

The meeting, which lasted into the early morning hours of Friday, featured mutual recriminations between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, heard in recordings played on Channel 12 and the Kan public broadcaster.

At one point, Netanyahu is heard accusing Gantz of having “the blood of many Israelis” on his hands if the lockdown was not extended; and Gantz accusing Netanyahu of “throwing dust in the public’s eyes.”

Netanyahu: “The public understands your game very well. It understands you are condemning many Israelis to serious illness and death.”

Gantz: “Don’t tell me stories, don’t lecture me about responsibility for human lives. You are throwing dust in the public’s eyes.”

Netanyahu: “We understand you’re adopting an oppositional stance, we understand it’s your strategy. Open, open, open, morbidity will rise, and you know exactly what the result will be. In these 50 days left until the election, I expect that you will always object to what we propose.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit also caught some of Netanyahu’s ire, after Mandelblit forced a revote on the lockdown, arguing that the decisions required full cabinet agreement (Blue and White was still dissenting at that stage).

The prime minister told the attorney general, “you’re here to counsel, but I don’t have to listen to you.”

Gantz’s office later charged that Netanyahu’s associates leaked the recordings to benefit the premier in the upcoming elections, and demand that the entire protocol of all cabinet meetings on the coronavirus be made public.

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