Personal Attacks Unleashed as Ministers Quarrel Over Covid Policies

YERUSHALAYIM -
Coronavirus PCR samples at a Clalit Health Services laboratory in Yerushalayim. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday morning released a statement giving Naftali Bennett’s “full backing” to Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the Health Ministry’s director of public health.

“Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis is a dedicated and professional public servant who works around the clock for the health of the citizens of Israel.

“She is working responsibly and practically, and is helping us to lead the response to the pandemic,” the press release read.

Obviously, someone must be saying otherwise about Alroy-Preis, or there would be no need for a letter of recommendation from the prime minister.

Indeed, the statement did allude to such unpleasantness, saying that “the personal attack against her is unworthy and unacceptable,” though it did not describe the attack or say who attacked her.

It was left for the media to fill in the background, which they did.

Israel’s Channel 13 quoted a source as saying that Alroy-Preis, “acts like she’s crazy. She’s always screaming and when she’s asked to provide figures, she stammers and is evasive. There is no data behind this hysteria.”

Unnamed sources in the coronavirus cabinet had reportedly been lashing out at her.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz also tweeted his full support of Alroy-Preis.

The fracas comes as Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton’s mental competence was likewise questioned, as she became the target of anonymous attacks branding her a “coronavirus denier.”

That seemed to have been elicited by her opposition to vaccinating children in schools and, reportedly, even to allowing schools to encourage vaccination.

“Two million Israeli school children are being held captive by a coronavirus denier,” the unnamed minister was quoted as saying to Channel 12. “Refusing to vaccinate in schools? Has she gone mad?”

Shasha-Biton did not get a press release in her defense from the PMO. Instead, Bennett told her to back off. “Stop dealing in this style with the Health Ministry,” Bennett was quoted as telling her by Channel 12 news.

Shasha-Biton reportedly retorted: “With all respect, I have my own opinion.”

However, her party leader, Justice Minister Gideon Saar condemned “the anonymous and cowardly attacks,” the Walla news website reported.

“That doesn’t mean that his position is always identical to hers,” the statement noted, lest anyone start calling him a coronavirus denier.

The head of the Israel Teachers Union said on Wednesday that her members agree with Shasha-Biton’s opposition to administering COVID-19 vaccines at schools.

“There are HMOs and parents and can go vaccinate their kids. Educational institutions will remain educational institutions,” Yaffa Ben-David told Kan public radio.

Noting the ongoing dispute about administering the vaccine, Ben-David says she’s concerned that quarrels could break out between parents and school administrators over inoculation against the coronavirus.