October 16, 2021

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Health Officials Unhappy over PM’s Criticism at UN

3 min read

On Tuesday, health were bristling because of the criticism directed at them by Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, in his trip the day before to the United Nations. The Prime Minister was in New York for attending the UN General Assembly and during a briefing with journalists, he took a swipe at the health officials who are advising the government about its coronavirus approach. There have already been reports regarding disagreements about whether to impose additional restrictions or not. Several comments were made by the premier in which he criticized the officials. He stated that they were not looking at the full picture and ‘stuttered’ when he asked for explanations for their demand to limit public gatherings. 

Earlier, during his speech at the UN, the Prime Minister had said that while doctors could provide some great input, running the national initiative is not their responsibility. He added that it was only the country’s national leader who had a good perspective about all the considerations of any country. Nitzan Horowitz, the Health Minister of Israel spoke in an interview and said that the premier’s criticism was unfortunate and unnecessary. He went on to say that he supported the work of the health officials, but he was in agreement with Bennet about further restrictions being unwarranted.

Nachman Ash, the Director General of the Health Ministry, said that such criticism had ‘saddened’ him because it had been highlighted at the UN instead of the dedication of the medical teams of saving lives under great strain on a daily basis. He added that the feeling was unpleasant because such comments were unexpected and he was content with their work. He also stated that it was the job of professionals to voice their opinion and the government could then make a decision. Ash said that they would continue expressing their opinion. 

An unnamed health official referred to the Prime Minister’s actions as childish, as he couldn’t handle criticism. Another official said that they were doing everything possible and were ahead of the world and rather than taking pride in the fact, Bennett had attacked them on the UN stage. Horowitz tweeted on Friday that Health Ministry experts were doing an excellent job because they are devoted to saving lives. He added that their recommendations were certainly the first considerations, if not the only ones. He also added that expressing an opinion over the conduct of the politicians is also important, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. 

These comments came after a meeting was scheduled for Sunday of the coronavirus cabinet that hasn’t met in more than a month. The cabinet had convened in late August the last time, before the beginning of the school year in the country and start of the Jewish holidays. As there are mixed morbidity figures, health and government officials appear to be in disagreement about imposing additional restrictions, with Naftali Bennett not in favor of doing so. He had said that new restrictions would not help in reducing morbidity and would just harm the economy. 

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