Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman did not attend any meetings of the ministerial committee on Israel's coronavirus response since the new government was formed in June.
Lieberman and Lapid, who is also alternate prime minister in a rotation agreement with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, are two of the cabinet's 14 permanent members by law, due to their ministerial portfolios. Their absence from the meetings was first reported by Kan public broadcaster and Kan Bet radio.
Lapid justified his decision to absent himself from the meetings by saying that as foreign minister, he is not directly involved in the matters discussed in the meetings.
Lapid’s office said Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov attends the meetings in Lapid’s place, as the issues discussed by the coronavirus cabinet are more relevant to his portfolio.
Lapid added that he receives regular updates on the meetings, while the director-general of the Alternative Prime Minister’s Office, Naama Schultz, and representatives of the consular division of the Foreign Ministry attend the meetings on his behalf.
"The foreign minister doesn't need to take part in the coronavirus cabinet meetings because it isn't part of his job nor his area of expertise," Lapid said in a statement. "I also don't need to be there as alternate prime minister because the current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is doing an excellent job dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, and I am totally behind him. I take part in the decision-making process when required and accept collective responsibility as a minister in this government."
Lieberman said that he appointed Hamad Amar, a minister in the Finance Ministry from Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party, as his representative at the meetings. He added that Amar will continue representing him until a state budget is approved.
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The cabinet voted for the budget proposal, and has until November 4 to pass it in a Knesset vote.
Lieberman also said that ministry officials are present at the meetings and take an active part in the decision-making process, and that he remains updated and participates "in the decisions which are relevant to the Israeli market and economy."
"Minister Amar and I support having the current crisis handled by experts with the political leadership backing up their suggestions, unlike in the previous waves of COVID-19," Lieberman said in a Facebook post.
The coronavirus cabinet is the body that formulates government policies in the fight against the virus. Most of its decisions are brought to the full cabinet for approval, but it does have the authority to decide on some measures without the full cabinet's approval. It has 14 members, half the number of the ministers in the full cabinet.
Since the new government was sworn in, the coronavirus cabinet met four times.
In its first meeting, it was decided to take action against the rise in infection, which began just a few days after the new government was sworn in. At the most recent meeting on Tuesday it was decided to implement a series of restrictions, including a full return to the Green Pass scheme.