The ease with which Health Minister Nitzan applies double standards is taken for granted by now. Still, the latest example of his modus operandi is too blatant to let slide.
The context is the emergence of the new corona variant, Omicron. Though the strain is causing most Israelis to yawn under our masks, the government is performing its usual convoluted dance of panic-spreading on the one hand, and reassurance on the other. In his position as health grand poohbah, Horowitz is doing the same hora as the rest of the cabinet.
The two-step in this romp includes closing the country’s borders to foreign nationals, considering the use of security-service phone-tracking to monitor possible carriers, and weighing mandatory vaccination for all – all while allowing citizens to proceed with their Hanukkah plans and parties as scheduled. All of this is coinciding with the push to inoculate 5-11-year-olds, and plea to anyone else who hasn’t received one, two or three doses to hightail it to the nearest nurse with a needle.
In the midst of the chaos, with Omicron leading every news broadcast and tourists scrambling to obtain permission from the exceptions committee, Horowitz took a pause on Wednesday to concern himself with – get this – abortion reform.
This topic is nothing new for the left-wing Meretz Party that he heads. But now, for the first time ever, Meretz is in the government, and its leader holds the portfolio that covers uterus evacuation, to put a euphemistic spin on what it actually is.
Though the timing of Horowitz’s comments about changes to existing legislation that he intends to promote over next few months was odd, those words themselves were not the least bit novel.
“The right to a woman’s body is hers alone,” he tweeted. “Nobody owns [her] or has the right to make a decision on [her] behalf about terminating a pregnancy. Not even the state. [Meretz MKs] Michal Rozin, Gaby Lasky and I are setting out to make a historic move to... get rid of archaic and humiliating procedures and promote genuine change.”
Separately, Horowitz told the Hebrew press that it is “immoral” to determine what a woman can do with her body.
Never mind that some of us consider the killing of a fetus to involve something more serious than a mother’s so-called autonomy. Leave aside as well that the laws governing abortion in Israel are not as draconian as Meretz makes them out to be. This is a longstanding debate for another column.
What makes abortion relevant in this case is that Horowitz does not consider vaccination to be a “pro-choice” issue. No, where corona is concerned, women’s bodies, like those of men and children, are not their own to do with as they please. Furthermore, Israeli health authorities have been warning pregnant women against the serious danger that the virus poses to them and their fetuses.
Ironically, though facilitating helping women rid themselves of unwanted babies may be high on Horowitz’s list of health priorities, he and his Meretz cronies aren’t likely to make much headway anytime soon. Being in a coalition with the Islamist Ra’am Party means having to forfeit certain left-wing aspirations for the sake of others, after all.
SPEAKING OF which: Horowitz – who was caught on a hot mic in mid-September admitting that the “green pass” system is a means to pressuring people to get vaccinated, and not based on epidemiology – didn’t even bother hiding his exit from a meeting in early October of the Ministerial Committee on Fighting the Corona to rush off to an appointment with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the Mukata in Ramallah.
Yes, Israel’s most senior official charged with handling the pandemic wanted to let his constituents know that he hadn’t lost sight of his and their main ambition: to secure Palestinian statehood by way of an Israeli withdrawal to the 1947 armistice lines.
Fellow abortion enthusiast Rozin accompanied him on this little excursion, as did Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej.
A few weeks later, Frej flew off to Norway, where he led Israel’s delegation to the biannual gathering of donor countries to the PA.
His aim in attending the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting was to persuade the international community – whose contributions to the PA have gone from $1.3 billion in 2011 to a “mere” few hundred million in recent years — to resume its previous spending.
To sidestep the reason for the reduction in donations — that they were spent on Abbas’s “pay-for-slay” program to keep terrorists and their families in clover — Frej expressed the belief that the Palestinians are on the verge of undergoing a real transformation in their approach.
Like Frej, Horowitz has to invent what he thinks are plausible explanations for politics that aren’t palatable to members of the coalition who don’t actually intend to side with Israel’s enemies. He’s also forced now to come up with explanations for zig-zagging on his “ethics” when it suits his political purposes.
Take for instance his position on Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) phone-tracking of Omicron-infected citizens. When he was a mere Knesset member on the back benches of the opposition last year, Horowitz went ballistic over a temporary law authorizing the Shin Bet to monitor corona patients.
In March 2020, when prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the measure, Horowitz wrote a scathing letter to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit asking that he intervene to stop this “serious invasion of privacy.”
Two months later, Horowitz ranted about what he referred to as the “targeting of movements, meetings, text messages and many other things” that the policy would entail, tweeting: “I’m a free citizen and I’m not ready for the government to come into my life like this.”
Yet last Saturday night, without blinking an eye, he approved the reinstatement of that very measure, on the grounds that it’s only aimed at people infected with Omicron and at those who came in contact with them. In other words, he suddenly came around to seeing it as a legitimate means of managing the pandemic.
Rather than hanging his head in shame, he had his office tell Channel 12 in a statement that the current move isn’t like that of the previous government, but rather is “limited and proportionate, and every day we will reexamine whether it is necessary to continue using this tool.” Horowitz and his advisers seem to think we’ve all forgotten that this is exactly what the previous government said and did about Shin Bet deployment in the battle against the spread of the virus.
Digs at his predecessors aside, Horowitz’s main problem, which renders him unfit for the ministry he heads, is that the only ills he considers to be in need of curing are societal. Indeed, in the woke world of his party, Zionism is the virus and Israeli values are the variants that must be prevented from spreading.