Netanyahu refuses to condemn Gamliel for breaking coronavirus rules

Movement for Quality Government calls on her to resign

Gila Gamliel at a weekly cabinet meeting, March 10th, 2019 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Gila Gamliel at a weekly cabinet meeting, March 10th, 2019
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel’s violation of the Health Ministry’s coronavirus restrictions and alleged deception to ministry epidemiologists on Tuesday by saying that it is wrong to pass judgment until the ministry’s inquiries were complete.
“I suggest waiting until we have the full picture,” Netanyahu said at the start of a coronavirus cabinet meeting.
Speaking more generally, Netanyahu said: “We are all committed to adhering to the guidelines, regarding gatherings and all other guidelines relating to the reality of the coronavirus. That includes ministers, members of Knesset and all elected officials.”
Gamliel found herself in hot water after violating coronavirus lockdown restrictions by traveling some 150 km. from her Tel Aviv home to Tiberias for Yom Kippur, before testing positive for the virus. She prayed at a synagogue in the city run by her father-in-law, where some 20 people were diagnosed with the virus in recent days.
The minister reportedly earlier attempted to hide the violation from the Health Ministry during her epidemiological investigation, avoiding the ministry for hours and then saying that she caught the virus from her driver. But the investigation found that her family members had also contracted the virus and had not been in contact with her driver.
Sources close to Gamliel stated that the minister had been residing in a home in Tiberias that she and her husband own, and that everything was done according to the Health Ministry guidelines. Ministry officials revealed to Haaretz reporter Haim Levinson, who initially broke the story, that Gamliel had hid that she was in Tiberias until it was revealed by the media. Before that, she told them that she genuinely thought she had caught the virus from her driver, who was earlier diagnosed with COVID-19.
“The minister’s husband was born in Tiberias, and the city appears as his official address in government records,” a source close to Gamliel said. “They stayed in an apartment that belongs to them and is used by them during weekends, holidays and vacations.
Minister Gamliel moved to the residence in Tiberias with her husband and daughters before the lockdown came into effect, and did not break any guidelines by the Health Ministry or Home Front Command.”
But police said Gamliel, like all citizens, was required to remain in her own home that is listed on her identity card.
Gamliel released a statement explaining what had happened, while apologizing to the public. She promised to pay the required NIS 5,000 fine.
“I did everything in accordance with lockdown restrictions, and tried to combine my duties as a public servant and as a mother to little girls. I understand that there is a great importance in maintaining public trust in government guidelines,” Gamliel said. “I made a mistake and should have acted differently. For that, I apologize to the public, and guarantee I will pay the required fine.”
The Health Ministry announced on Monday afternoon that it had completed Gamliel’s inquiry. All the ministry would say officially was that “the minister cooperated throughout the process and all people she encountered were told to enter quarantine.”
The Movement for Quality Government called upon Gamliel to resign for her behavior, saying that an elected official cannot lie to the authorities.
“We are in a crisis of trust between the public and the politicians, and this violation makes a bad situation even worse,” the movement said.
The movement also called upon Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to open a criminal inquiry into Gamliel’s behavior.
 A Justice Ministry spokesman said that they have not yet received a request from the police to probe the issue. Only Mandelblit has the authority to allow a probe of a minister to go forward, but typically he approves such probes upon request from the police.
Channel 13 reported that police are vetting probes of both Gamliel and Yesh Atid-Telem MK Mickey Levy.
Levy admitted violating Health Ministry directives by visiting the home of his son, staying there for more than an hour and eating there.
He lives a seven-minute drive from his son in Mevaseret Zion, farther than the kilometer permitted by law.
Sources close to Levy initially responded that the MK merely delivered food to him for the Sukkot holiday and left immediately. But later, Levy and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid agreed that as a consequence of his violations, Levy would not only pay whatever fines are assessed, but also leave the Knesset coronavirus committee that passed the restrictions that he allegedly violated mere hours after they were passed.
Channel 12 revealed on Monday night that Levy also violated restrictions on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, when he hosted his granddaughters at his home.

Yonah Jeremy Bob and Eve Young contributed to this report.