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Israeli Officials Breaking Coronavirus Rules Add to Distrust of Government
Sara Netanyahu (L), wife of the Israeli prime minister, seen here arriving at the May 17 swearing-in ceremony for Israel's parliament in Jerusalem, broke the lockdown rules by having a hairdresser come to their official residence. (Alex Kolomiensky/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli Officials Breaking Coronavirus Rules Add to Distrust of Government

Growing list of public figures caught violating regulations hampers efforts to get buy-in from citizens

A growing list of government officials caught violating Israel’s coronavirus measures is increasing the public’s distrust, making it harder to enforce restrictions aimed at putting a lid on the pandemic, a senior researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute tells The Media Line.

Dr. Amir Fuchs says that if one looks back to the start of the outbreak last March, the society-wide change is evident.

“In the beginning, the Israelis were very obedient, and people obeyed the first lockdown. But now it’s very different for multiple reasons. But some of the reasons include Israelis saying, ‘Look at the leaders. They themselves don’t obey the regulations. So, it’s not like I must obey them.’”

The total number of coronavirus cases in Israel as of Thursday afternoon was 283,532, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker. The 61,640 active cases include Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel, who announced over the weekend that she had tested positive for the illness after violating the lockdown limit on movement by traveling from her home in Tel Aviv to Tiberias for Yom Kippur, where she contracted the virus.

And on the Friday eve of the Sukkot holiday, Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, broke the lockdown rules by having a hairdresser come to their official residence.

On Saturday, the first day of Sukkot, the head of the Shin Bet security service, Nadav Argaman, violated the lockdown restrictions by hosting visitors at his home for several hours.

Other public figures who violated measures in the course of the coronavirus outbreak include the prime minister, President Reuven Rivlin, Education Minister Yoav Gallant of Likud and Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who all hosted family members not living with them during Passover; and Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy, who resigned from the coronavirus cabinet after violating lockdown rules on two occasions.

Yamina party head Naftali Bennett’s son had his girlfriend over to the family home before Yom Kippur. According to Bennett’s office, he and his wife did not know about the visit. Nevertheless, they took responsibility.

In addition, Reuven Azar, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, left a hotel in Washington before the signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House, in violation of the Prime Minister’s Office’s coronavirus rules, and later violated quarantine back in Israel.

Finally, then-health minister Yakov Litzman, head of United Torah Judaism, was diagnosed with COVID-19 after attending a prayer service that was banned under the lockdown regulations put forward by his own office.

In the beginning, the Israelis were very obedient, and people obeyed the first lockdown. But now it’s very different for multiple reasons. But some of the reasons include Israelis saying, ‘Look at the leaders. They themselves don’t obey the regulations. So, it’s not like I must obey them’

Jerusalemite Michal, 25, tells The Media Line that the barrage of coronavirus violations by political leaders is upsetting.

“It creates really hard feelings that our government is full of people who are unqualified. They are not smart people. They are not the people we are looking for. And that’s difficult. It’s not a good sign. It’s not good leadership,” Michal says.

Fuchs points out that part of the distrust of the government goes back to the national election in March, after which 61 of the 120 members of Knesset endorsed Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for prime minister. President Rivlin tasked Gantz with forming a government, but he was unable to assemble a coalition.

“They see the government as something that is almost unacceptable. And of course, the fact that we have a prime minister under trial for bribery also gets a lot of people to distrust it,” Fuchs says.

“Whatever he does,” Fuchs continues, “they interpret it as, ‘Well, he is using it for his PR,’ or, ‘He’s using it for his political survival.’ When you think there is a conflict of interest in everything the prime minister does, the chances your people will be obedient and to do whatever you tell them is low.”

Michal says that she sees this rule-breaking every day on the streets of Jerusalem.

“People don’t really follow the rules in the second lockdown,” she says. “The first lockdown was really good. People did everything to follow the rules and now, after all of these embarrassments from the government, yeah, well, people don’t follow them.”

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