Outrage as Israel’s Political Elite Test Positive for COVID After Lavish New Year’s Eve Rave

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JERUSALEM—Israelis badly needed to let off some steam, and New Year’s Eve, last Friday, provided an outlet, even if that meant that some of the nation’s top officials ignored regulations in place aimed at tamping COVID-19 infections.

The most visible official whose flouting of the rules was disclosed by Instagram—in this case the account of his own husband, pop star Harel Skaat—is Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll.

In Apri 2020, long before the advent of COVID vaccines, Israel’s entire cabinet was forced into quarantine when health minister Yaakov Litzman, and his wife Chava were found positive for COVID-19.

Litzman was accused of breaking his own ministry’s guidelines forbidding group prayer and “putting all our lives in danger,” in the heated words of another minister, who spoke without attribution.

The Litzman positive COVID test provoked a political storm. Idan Roll, a fiery opposition legislator, tweeted out an unequivocal message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “You must fire Litzman. This goes beyond politics, human lives are at stake.”

Roll, a lawyer, and Skaat, the parents of two young children, are the most glittering celebrities associated with Israel’s new government.

Roll, 37, a former model and a centrist liberal, and one of the most prominent gay public figures in the country, and Litzman, 73, a stern ultra-orthodox Jew and uncompromising champion of right-wing causes, have little in common but for the fact of finding themselves in hot water after flouting COVID-19 guidelines.

Roll and Skaat have both been found positive for corona after the New Year’s Eve bash in a Caesarea club, in which Roll was filmed languidly dancing as Skaat crooned at the crowd from onstage—with nary a face mask in sight.

Like Litzman, Roll has not been fired. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid gave him a mild rebuke and a reminder that “public servants should make sure they follow the guidelines and set a personal example.”

Roll’s office issued a statement saying that he was asymptomatic and had been tested only because his husband, Skaat, had been exposed. The politician reportedly denied having broken any pandemic rules, adding that all attendees at the party were required to provide a negative test result prior to the event.

Reactions across the board were scathing. Topaz Luk, a spokesman for now Opposition Leader Netanyahu, tweeted an image of Litzman captioned with the news of Roll’s positive status. Reshef Shay, a satirist in the mold of Trevor Noah, tweeted that “Roll has been found positive for karma.”

With Omicron variant infections soaring, Israel is suffering a plague of public officials not following the rules. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s military secretary, Avi Gil, posted pictures of himself dancing unmasked at a New Year’s Eve bash at a Tel Aviv club with about 200 unmasked fellow revelers, among them Shalev Hulio, CEO of NSO, the Israeli cyber-arms company recently blacklisted by the United States Department of Commerce.

The Next Big COVID Variant Could Be a Triple Whammy Nightmare

The future of NSO, a company that sells its spyware to countries around the world under the authorization of the Israeli defense ministry, hangs in the balance, and Gil is likely to have to address Israel’s ties to the company in meetings with American officials.

In a statement, Bennett’s office said “the Prime Minister pointed out to his staff the need to pay extra attention to the recommendations, as part of the importance of maintaining public trust.”

Bennett himself was recently subject to public ridicule, when his wife Gilat and their four children flew to the Maldives on vacation three days after Bennett asked Israelis to refrain from foreign travel. He later spent several days in quarantine after one of his daughters was found positive for the Omicron variant.

Responding to Roll’s status, Yevgeny Zarovinsky, a right-wing influencer, joked: “I won’t be surprised if Roll is planning to isolate in the Maldives.”

Bennett on Tuesday announced that preliminary results from Israel’s campaign to vaccinate immunocompromised patients and citizens above the age of 60 with a second Pfizer/BioNTech booster, or fourth shot, “shows a five-fold increase in the number of antibodies” among those whose third jabs occurred four months ago.

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