Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu violated Health Ministry directives by attending a meal with his family when he was still supposed to be in quarantine, as Israel struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Netanyahu and his son Avner, who doesn’t live in the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, were seen holding the traditional meal in a video filmed prior to the Passover holiday that was aired on Channel 12 News on Wednesday evening.
Keshet Media Group told Haaretz that the video was filmed on Tuesday at the Prime Minister’s Residence by Netanyahu’s own filming crew. Netanyahu, however, was supposed to enter quarantine starting April 2 and until Passover eve on Wednesday after coming into contact with Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who was diagnosed with COVID-19.
The Health Ministry and Netanyahu have called on the public to “act responsibly” and keep the Passover seder to the nuclear family, whose members reside in the same household. Furthermore, the Health Ministry instructed Israelis to refrain from visiting their parents on Passover eve in order to prevent further infection within the community.
A source close to Netanyahu said that “Avner has stayed for hours at the Prime Minister’s Residence every day over the past month and slept in his apartment which is adjacent to the residence and is within the boundaries of the secure complex.
"Avner is acting in accordance with all Health Ministry orders and stays at home.” The source refused to say when the video in question was filmed.
Staying in the prime minister’s secure compound over the past month wouldn’t constitute a violation of the Health Ministry directives. However, Netanyahu’s office declined to say when Avner moved into the compound and where exactly he lives, or if he had been in contact with his 71-year-old father while he was in quarantine.
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Moreover, Netanyahu’s older son, Yair, who lives in the official residence with his parents, tweeted Thursday that Avner “Is renting an apartment in the building opposite [to the prime minister’s residence] and leaves the house only to go to the prime minister’s residence.” He soon deleted the tweet.
Assuming that Avner does live in the building opposite to the Prime Minister’s Residence, meeting his father to celebrate the seder is a violation of the orders the Health Ministry issued ahead of the holiday, according to which people are barred from going from one household to another, even if the distance between them is within the 100-meter radius of their residence.
This directive was issued to prevent people from holding the seder with their neighbors, which would increase their chances to contract the virus.
The claim that Avner has been living in the prime minister's compound over the past month raises another question. On March 16 it was reported that Yair and his mother Sara were tested for the coronavirus, after the prime minister came into contact with his close aide Rivka Paluch, who was diagnosed with COVID-19. But there were no reports on whether Avner got tested, which he is required to do if he lives in the same compound with his father.
Netanyahu’s office said that “Avner and his girlfriend are strictly following Health ministry orders," adding that because of their compliance with the regulations, “Avner’s partner hasn’t visited her parents for the past five weeks or went to work.”