Defense Minister:
Bennett calls to end coronavirus closures, reopen Israeli economy

'Now the battle shifts from fighting the coronavirus to restoring the economy,' says Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett
Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (Yamina) said Sunday afternoon that the time has come for Israel to reopen its economy and end the mass restrictions imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the nationwide closures were imposed last month, unemployment has surged to record highs, rising from 3.6% in February to 26.3% in April.

Speaking at a press conference Sunday afternoon, Bennett called for the end to the nationwide isolation orders and prohibitions on certain types of businesses from operating, saying that the country must now work to rebuild its economy, after the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying government restrictions led to a sharp decline in economic activity.

“The time has come to reopen the State of Israel, that is the great battle,” said Bennett, adding that Israel must still take precautions to ensure that there is not a second wave of mass infections from the coronavirus. “The effort needs to shift from the fight against the coronavirus to the effort to rebuild and rehabilitate the Israeli economy, without losing control over the pandemic.”

Despite his support for a loosening of the restrictions, Bennett defended the Health Ministry’s initial decision to impose nationwide closures.

“I hear a lot of criticism about the ‘excessive fearfulness’ some have claimed the Health Ministry exhibited at the beginning of the crisis, but I reject that criticism. I give my full backing to the decisions that were made at the start of the crisis to close Israel, for one very simple reason – it was the right decision based on the information we had at the time.”

“Today, we know much more about the virus and how it spreads, so with the very same determination that led us to close Israel, we need to open Israel back up, with reasonable defense mechanisms.”

“True, we will see some increase in new cases and in serious hospitalizations, but based on all the information that there is, we’re able to handle that increase.”

"Israel is in the process of opening up. I do anticipate some degree of a surge in the number of infected people. However, we have enough leeway to grow 2000% - 20 times - without overwhelming our medical system. I'm optimistic that we can move ahead. We have to do it cautiously, continue the social distancing, wearing masks, etc."