Orli Levi-Abekasis Launches Election Campaign, Says She Aims for Health Portfolio

Former fashion and television star also vows to make medical cannabis more accessible in Israel

MK Orli Levi-Abekasis at the launch of the election campaign of the Gesher party, which she heads, March 10, 2019
Moti Milrod

Gesher chairwoman Orli Levi-Abekasis vowed at the formal launch of her new party's campaign Sunday to initiate an “emergency plan” to help remedy Israel’s failing health establishment.

“Thousands of people are dying gratuitously,” MK Levi-Abekasis asserted, adding that Gesher's primary demand for joining the coalition after the upcoming election would be the health portfolio.

She also promised to make it easier to obtain medical cannabis. “How can it be that people are denied medicine because its name is cannabis?” she asked rhetorically. “How can an Israeli physician [be allowed to] prescribe morphine, but for cannabis, we make [physicians] go through hell before getting a license. Why does this happen? Apathy, close-mindedness and disdain.”

Since the use of cannabis for medical purposes has been legalized in the country, Levi-Abekasis pointed out, the issue is now one of regulation.

“It cannot be that our the best of our sons and daughters and a large number of patients have to go to the black market for it,” she said. “Because of the lack of proper regulation, we are causing a criminal market to flourish. I mean regulation as in the case of alcohol. There should be supervision and decisions must be made stipulating the [medical] conditions, ages and so on” of potential users.

Other priority issues that Gesher will tackle include the gender gap in pay – “women earn a lot less than men” – traffic jams and poverty.

“In Israel of 2020 there will be people living below the poverty line,” Levi-Abekasis said. “People won’t die of hunger but they won’t be able to buy their children the basic 'basket' of food they need. Above and beyond all that, the healthcare system is collapsing. Twenty years ago the gap between us and the other OECD countries was small, but it’s been growing, especially in the last decade.”

Every year 5,000 Israelis die of infections in the hospitals, she added: “When people die from terrorism, they’re called 'victims' and that is correct and right, but when 5,000 people quietly die in the hospital nobody says a word. Nobody calls an urgent meeting. No budgets are directed to there.”

Her party, the MK asserted, will place creation of a solution to this situation at the heart of its agenda.

Gesher is not committed to either left or right, its chairwoman said: The public has to decide if it wants "more of the same," and in any case, she reiterated, Gesher will only join the coalition if a plan to remedy the health establishment is one of its core objectives.

Levi-Abekasis went on to say that the country is witnessing a "surreal phenomenon" during the current election campaign, whereby the big political parties are becoming more and more alike as time goes by and are promising to join forces in a future coalition. "But the issues these parties are raising aren't the day-to-day matters that affect people’s lives.

She also took a swipe at Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, accusing his ministry of releasing information regarding “the country's true deficit” in the dead of night: “Something in its management is awry. This is a matter of priorities and proper financial management. A healthy life should be the top priority. There is no long-term planning, there are Band-Aids on top of Band-Aids and it winds up costing more.”

While Levi-Abekasis did not fault Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman or his predecessors for not caring about the nation's health, she claimed that they didn't do enough to improve it. They wouldn’t get into a showdown over healthcare, but Gesher will, she vowed, because human lives are at stake.