A-G clears Gamliel of serious coronavirus violations

Minister punished only with fine.

MK Gila Gamliel.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
MK Gila Gamliel.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday cleared Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud) of the serious allegation of lying to the Health Ministry about her coronavirus status following her infection and violation of quarantine and lockdown rules.
The police had moved toward an initial probe of Gamliel on October 6 for allegedly violating multiple coronavirus-related laws.
The police were looking into the incident and examining what took place over the holiday period, including her movements, where she traveled and with whom she met, Police Spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said at the time.
Gamliel admitted then to violating limitations on movement during the lockdown. The more severe allegations relate to whether she actively misled the Health Ministry to further violate quarantine restrictions.
There was no evidence that she had lied about her status, Mandelblit said, citing her confession and expression of regret about her actions.
The difference in violations is that some only carry a fine as a penalty, whereas others could carry several years in jail for lying to the Health Ministry and actively promoting the virus.
A poll taken when the scandal broke on Channel 12 news found that 76% of the public believes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should fire Gamliel, 17% said not to fire her, and 7% said they don’t know.
Gamliel found herself in hot water after violating coronavirus lockdown restrictions by traveling some 150 kilometers 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 have been diagnosed with the virus following the holiday.
It had been alleged that the minister attempted to hide the violation from the Health Ministry earlier during her epidemiological investigation, avoiding the ministry for hours and then saying she caught the virus from her driver.
Gamliel has acknowledged wrongdoing and said she would pay the NIS 5,000 fine, but she is not expected to resign or be fired by Netanyahu.
Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu at the time expressed “disappointment” that Gamliel broke the Health Ministry’s regulations. “An elected official should understand how this damages public trust,” he said.
“The public expect to see that [its leaders] are doing what is asked of it,” he added.
Gamzu would not comment on whether Gamliel should step down. He acknowledged that she had apologized for her wrongdoing.
“I do not choose for ministers what steps to take before the public,” Gamzu said.

Gil Hoffman and Maayan Hoffman contributed to this report.