'I respect health officials, but we won't back new restrictions'

Israeli Prime Minister pushes back on criticism from Health Minister, amid spat with ministry officials over demands for new restrictions.

Uzi Baruch, New York , | updated: 9:38 AM

נפתלי בנט לפני ההמראה
נפתלי בנט לפני ההמראה
צילום: אבי אוחיון / לע"מ

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett departed from New York Wednesday morning, returning to Israel following his address at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

Just before boarding the flight, Bennett responded to criticism from Health Ministry officials, over his recent spat with ministry officials.

In a brief statement to reporters, Bennett said that he ‘respects’ Health Ministry officials, but added that his government differs with them over their proposals to impose new sweeping restrictions on public activity.

“I very much respect the health experts and value their professional work, but imposing additional restrictions on Israeli citizens is not this government’s policy,” Bennett said.

“As far as the statistics go, 40 towns and cities with the highest infection rates in Israel are from the Arab sector, and more than 90% of people in serious condition in our hospitals are unvaccinated.”

“Despite the pressure, at this stage, we’re not going to impose restrictions on the entire population. Cancelling Shlomo Artzi concerts won’t help the residents of Umm el-Fahm,” Bennett continued, referring to the large Israeli-Arab town in the northern edge of the coastal plain.

“What will help is us getting there and helping residents. We will work to avoid actions that have little benefit and cause a lot of damage. Because that would mean the immediate loss of tens of thousands of jobs.”

Bennett’s comments come after Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) ripped Bennett over his criticism of senior Health Ministry officials, including Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis.

"I think it was unnecessary and am sorry it was done. The healthcare system is doing an amazing job and I support them 100% because I support science and medicine and that is always our first consideration. It is the duty of healthcare professionals to present their professional recommendation to the decision makers," Horowitz said in an interview with Kan News.