Lapid calls for ceasefire in Bennett's fight with Israel's doctors

Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis tells Knesset that health officials decided on the boosters, not the government.

 ALTERNATE PRIME Minister Yair Lapid addresses his Knesset faction in July against the backdrop of his party slogan: ‘We came to change.’ ( (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
ALTERNATE PRIME Minister Yair Lapid addresses his Knesset faction in July against the backdrop of his party slogan: ‘We came to change.’ (
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called for a ceasefire between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and top medical officials on Wednesday.

Speaking to ministers of his Yesh Atid Party, Lapid said Israel cannot afford to continue the feud.

“I will not let there be wars and struggles over credit between professionals and the government,” Lapid said. “The medical, economic and educational professionals issue their recommendations, and the government decides. This is the only proper hierarchy.”

Lapid called for unity following the dispute that escalated in Bennett’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

“We still have not defeated the pandemic,” Lapid said. “We all have one enemy: the coronavirus.”

 Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, US, September 27, 2021 (credit: JOHN MINCHILLO /POOL VIA REUTERS) Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett addresses the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, US, September 27, 2021 (credit: JOHN MINCHILLO /POOL VIA REUTERS)

Bennett told the UN that “doctors are important, but pandemics can only be properly managed by a national leader.”

The prime minister added: “Running a country during a pandemic is not only about health. It’s about carefully balancing all aspects of life that are affected by corona, especially jobs and education.”

The topic came up earlier in the day at a meeting of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which was meant to focus on passing the new Green Pass regulations for employees in the health, labor and leisure industries but spent several minutes focused on how much lawmakers support health officials.

“We are grateful to the people of the Health Ministry and we know how much they do, not only every day and night, but also on Shabbat and holidays,” said committee chairman MK Gilad Kariv. “We all need to maintain respectful discourse.”

MK Uri Maklev accused the prime minister of “greatly harming the health system” and said that he wanted to “strengthen you in the face of the prime minister’s words against you.”

He added that “we are all public representatives here to strengthen you against what has been done against you.”

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash both took to Israeli TV on Tuesday night to defend the work of the ministry. A meeting was held the day before between Horowitz and top ministry officials, in which he told them that he backs their work 100%.

A specific jab was reportedly made by Bennett at Head of Public Health Services Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis during a press briefing in New York, where he told Israeli reporters that some members of the team did not even back the boosters at first. Alroy-Preis, an epidemiologist, was at first hesitant to give third shots to all Israelis over 12, although she later supported the move.

Health Ministry professionals decided on the Green Pass outline and the need for a booster dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, Alroy-Preis said Wednesday at the Knesset meeting.

“It was not the government that decided,” she said, “but epidemiological data. It is not a government decision to decide who is vaccinated and who is not.”

She added that, “We deserve to be backed up.

“The Health Ministry works with professionalism and dedication, and the fact that a committee in the Knesset says whether they agree with the recommendation or not, that there should be no appeal to the ministry’s professionalism is very important.”

Bennett also faced criticism from inside his coalition on Wednesday. Meretz MK Yair Golan said his trip to the US was unnecessary and the UN speech could have been delivered from Israel.

Opposition factions filed a motion of no-confidence in the government on “its failure in managing the coronavirus.” The motion will come to a vote on Monday, when the Knesset returns from its extended summer and holiday recess.