Bennett Meets Top COVID Officials After Public Spat, Says No Disagreements

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz at a press conference in Jerusalem, in July.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz at a press conference in Jerusalem, in July.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz met Israel’s top health officials on Thursday, alleviating tensions after the premier criticized Israel's COVID-19 experts in several public statements.

At the meeting, Bennett underscored the importance of the medical experts’ opinions, even when it differs from that of the decision makers, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The meeting followed the public confrontation between Bennett and the Health Ministry’s top medical experts over the latter's recommendation to impose harsher restrictions on the public to stop the coronavirus spread.

“There was no disagreement between the sides,” the prime minister’s aides said in a statement issued after the meeting. “Because while the experts are required to submit their recommendations, the ministers must examine the overall relevant considerations and make the decisions.”

The Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash, head of the ministry’s health services Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis and coronavirus czar Prof. Salman Zarka took part in the meeting.

“The close cooperation characterizing the fight against the coronavirus will continue,” the statement said.

Earlier this week Bennett said “with all due respect to the medical experts, some of them don’t see the big picture. They’re not the ones making decisions on the national level, we are.”

Bennett also said at a press conference in New York, shortly after his speech to the UN General Assembly, that some health officials “objected to the booster shot in real time.”

Referring to the calls to limit public gatherings he said: “I don’t accept the ‘who cares about money and making a living’ approach. When I asked them why should we close down a Shlomo Artzi performance because of one sector or another, they stuttered.”

Alroy-Preis said on Thursday “Health Ministry employees are working professionally and devotedly.”

Ash said Bennett’s words created “an unpleasant feeling. We didn’t expect such words. All the more so because I wholeheartedly agree with what we’re doing. We are there to express our opinions and will continue to do so.”

A coronavirus cabinet member was cited as saying on Wednesday that “attacking the medical experts is a Netanyahu tactic. It is unbecoming of the current government.”

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