Bennett defends wife's Omicron travels: ‘She knows how to manage herself’

The Prime Minister said strongly at a press conference that he would not recommend travel only days before.

Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat voted in Ra'anana on March 23, 2021.  (photo credit: ARIEL ZANDBERG)
Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat voted in Ra'anana on March 23, 2021.
(photo credit: ARIEL ZANDBERG)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has again defended his wife’s decision to take their children on vacation – despite asking the rest of Israel’s citizens to avoid unnecessary trips.

Gilat Bennett and the family’s four children flew abroad on Wednesday, sparking criticism from the coalition and opposition alike as well as from Israelis. The trip took place only days after the first Omicron variant case was discovered in Israel, and after Bennett said that he would not recommend travel.

The political criticism was apparently harsh enough that Bennett felt a need to issue another defense of his wife, after having done so when the story broke on Wednesday.

“It is important to me that you know something about Gilat,” Bennett wrote. “She is the most charming and kind-hearted person I know. And, like many parents, we both have a desire to make our children as happy as possible, especially in light of a not-so-simple year in which their lives have been completely turned upside down.

Gilat is a woman who knows how to manage herself and our family. As you have seen, we have dealt with this issue in complete transparency. We announced the trip at our own initiative, and all the rules that apply to any other family will also apply to my family members.”

FROM LEFT: Nurit Levy, wife of Mickey Levy, Gilat Bennett, wife of Naftali Bennett, and Lihi Lapid, wife of Yair Lapid. (credit: DANI SHEM TOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSONS OFFICE)FROM LEFT: Nurit Levy, wife of Mickey Levy, Gilat Bennett, wife of Naftali Bennett, and Lihi Lapid, wife of Yair Lapid. (credit: DANI SHEM TOV/KNESSET SPOKESPERSONS OFFICE)

The story was picked up all over the world, including by the US website The Hill – and even by Arabic news stations.

The term “Gilat Bennett” has been trending on Twitter in Israel since her decision to take the trip, with people posting things like, “Gilat Bennett traveled abroad to make it easier for her children, but thousands of Israelis had to cancel flights and vacations at the last minute because the prime minister recommended avoiding flying.”

Others defended Gilat: “Gilat Bennett showed her husband who wears the jeans at home and it looks amazing.”

Bennett said that he is open to the criticism that he and his family received and “I also accept it,” adding that “not every decision we make is perfect.”

He assured the public that his wife and children would go directly into isolation upon returning from abroad.

Likud MK Miri Regev claimed that thousands of Israelis canceled their vacations to heed the prime minister’s request, regardless of whether they would get their money back. She noted that Foreign Minister Yair Lapid vacationed abroad a few days earlier.

“They do what they want to do, and do not care about us citizens,” Regev said. “They continue to lie and to get the public to panic. He is a ‘Bennett-alogical’ liar.”

Yesh Atid minister Orna Barbivay, who is in the coalition, did not hold back criticism.

“There is a problem with how this looks to the public, and it cannot be denied,” she said. “I would not go abroad if the prime minister advised against it. But it is their decision, and they will have to deal with the public criticism.”

United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Asher said this was further proof that there is no value to Bennett’s word.

“As Lapid once said, shame is dead and you are currently at its funeral,” he said.

Bennett’s longtime political partner, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, defended him, even though she had canceled a family vacation in the summer due to corona.

“Every family can decide on their own when to fly,” she said. “But it must be clear that directives have to be followed.”

Gilat and her children were originally slated to travel to Mauritius but canceled the trip when the country was labeled red. They rebooked their trip and traveled to a place that was allowed.