High-profile lockdown breachers fuel Israeli mistrust

High-profile lockdown breachers fuel Israeli mistrust
Israeli protesters gather for a demonstration in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement by the Dead Sea in the occupied West Bank on October 8, 2020, against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government during a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus disease. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 10 October 2020

High-profile lockdown breachers fuel Israeli mistrust

High-profile lockdown breachers fuel Israeli mistrust
  • A family statement said Sara Netanyahu booked the appointment ahead of filming a “video, in which she called on everyone to wear masks”

JERUSALEM: Public anger has deepened in Israel over a bitterly unpopular second coronavirus lockdown after reported violations by high-profile figures, including a hairdresser visiting the prime minister’s wife.
Israel, which currently has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 infection rates per capita, has reimposed draconian movement restrictions, with people compelled to remain within a kilometer of their homes.
Only essential workers are allowed to leave their residences, adding further stress to an already battered economy, while Jews have been barred from gathering with friends and family over the High Holidays.
A spokesman for the family of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his wife’s decision to summon a hairdresser to their official residence, saying it was part of her efforts to contain the virus.
A family statement said Sara Netanyahu booked the appointment ahead of filming a “video, in which she called on everyone to wear masks.”
“Ms. Netanyahu is an influential public figure and this is an informational video for the public service, she assumed that hairdresser services can be used, as is customary on television channels,” the statement further said.
It added that the hairdresser wore a mask and gloves and that the premier’s wife “strictly adheres” to all Health Ministry guidelines on containing the novel coronavirus.
The Yediot Ahronoth newspaper voiced outrage at what it described as hypocrisy.
“Thousands of barbers and hairdressers stayed at home, without their livelihood,” because of the lockdown, it wrote on Wednesday.
“Yet once again, it turns out that the rules that apply to Israeli citizens do not apply to the prime minister’s circle and his associates.”

HIGHLIGHT

A spokesman for the family of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his wife’s decision to summon a hairdresser to their official residence, saying it was part of her efforts to contain the virus.

Sara Netanyahu’s alleged quarantine infraction came after environmental protection minister and Netanyahu ally Gali Gamliel traveled to Tiberias — 137 km from her Tel Aviv home — on Yom Kippur.
Israel’s attorney general is due to rule on whether to open a formal investigation into Gamliel’s alleged infraction.
Days later, the head of the powerful Shin Bet internal security agency, Nadav Argaman, was accused by Israeli public radio of hosting relatives at his private home for the Sukkot holiday, breaking lockdown rules.
Argaman leads an agency responsible for tracking quarantine violators through their cell phones.
For Denis Charbit, a political scientist at the Open University of Israel, the “transgressions” of prominent figures serve as a justification for ordinary Israelis to breach the lockdown.
“Individual freedoms are hampered by the government-imposed containment, and the lockdown rules are not effective if leaders do not respect them,” he told AFP.
“The impunity that these politicians generally enjoy reinforces the public’s mistrust in the authorities,” he added.
Within the opposition ranks, lawmaker Miky Levy of the Yesh Atid party resigned from parliament’s coronavirus committee following media reports that he spent Sukkot in his son’s home.
Netanyahu won praise for his initial response to the coronavirus outbreak in March, but surging transmission in recent months and the renewed restrictions have hurt him politically.
A protest movement partly driven by frustration over his virus management has continued, with demonstrators constantly adapting to comply with lockdown measures, including gathering in small clusters across the country.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, which won 36 out of 120 parliamentary seats in March polls, would currently take just 26 seats, according to a poll this week by Israel’s Channel 12.
The same survey found that 65 percent of Israelis believe Netanyahu is handling the coronavirus crisis “poorly.”


Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘could fly home on March 7’

Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘could fly home on March 7’
Updated 1 min 44 sec ago

Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘could fly home on March 7’

Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘could fly home on March 7’
  • British-Iranian political prisoner detained for 5 years by Tehran ‘has calendar counting down release’


LONDON: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, one of the world’s most high-profile political prisoners, could be freed in seven weeks’ time when her Iran prison sentence ends, her family has said.

The 42-year-old mother’s five-year detention on charges that she denies ends officially on March 7.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national, “has begun counting down the weeks” before she is able to fly home to her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their 6-year-old daughter Gabriella in London.

The charity worker was arrested in 2016 at Tehran airport as she boarded a flight home with her daughter following a regular visit to her parents in Iran. Gabriella had her British passport confiscated and was sent to live with her grandparents.

Ratcliffe wrote to the UK Foreign Office and the Iranian Embassy this weekend to learn of the arrangements for his wife’s release.

His questions included whether she will be flown on board a military plane or commercial flight, how an electronic ankle tag she wears will be removed, and how she can regain her confiscated British passport. “We don’t want to leave everything until the last minute,” he said.

Since being released from the notorious Evin prison last year as the coronavirus pandemic broke out in Iran, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has lived under house arrest at her parents’ home in Tehran.

The UK Foreign Office said: “We remain committed to securing the immediate and permanent release of all arbitrarily detained dual nationals in Iran. We are doing everything we can to enable Nazanin to return home.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has created a seven-week countdown calendar on the wall of her bedroom. On the last week of the calendar, she has written “freedom.”

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain is “pushing as hard as it can” to free her, and negotiations with Iran had “intensified” recently.

He added that the incoming Biden administration in the US offers “additional possibilities” for Zaghari-Ratcliffe to leave Iran.