1. God don’t rest ye merry nurses: Israel’s vaccine drive is racing ahead, with some 180,000 Israelis already inoculated as of Thursday night, even if Bahrain has surpassed the country in per capita shots given, according to Our World in Data. With friends like these.
- ToI’s Nathan Jeffay writes that officials thought it would take longer to hit the 60,000 shots a day target, and are ready to ramp up the drive even further and expand the number of clinics where shots are being administered.
- “There is a huge shortage of people to give these vaccinations, but we have heard today that 700 medics from the army have been called up, and this will make a big difference,” says Ian Miskin, head of coronavirus care and vaccination for the Clalit healthcare provider in Jerusalem.
- Kan radio reports that Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has ordered his underlings to push vaccinations at night and on weekends — including Shabbat — in order to hit the 100,000 vaccinations a day goal announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
- According to Channel 13 news, Edelstein asked the chief rabbis to approve the Shabbat vaccinations, saying it would save lives, but rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef refused to do so.
- A separate report from Channel 12 news says a number of leading rabbis are seeking to prevent vaccinations on Shabbat, but does not name them.
- Dr. Orly Greenfeld, medical director of the national vaccine program, tells Army Radio that teachers are next on the list to be vaccinated.
- “Educational staff is high on the list, right after the medical staff and at-risk population. We’ll vaccinate them as soon as possible, maybe even next week.”
2. The little vaccinated boy: The drive is going so fast that there are even reports of young people who don’t meet the necessary criteria skipping to the head of the line.
- Channel 12 news reports that at a Tel Aviv vaccination center, shots were given out to anyone who shows up, regardless of whether they have an appointment or meet the age requirements. A picture published by the channel shows a non-socially-distanced line around the block with young old and everyone bunched together
- “We’re giving shots to those 60 and up. But someone who shows up and wants a shot gets one,” a worker at the Clalit center tells the channel.
- Kan says that during a vaccination drive at an old age home near Netanya, workers had some extra doses left over and so called their friends and relatives to rush over and get shots, with some 150 “young people” getting to skip the line.
- A source tells the station that “this will keep happening a lot more,” due to the fact that vaccines have to be used in a certain period before they go bad once they are defrosted. Why they brought 150 extra doses to the old age home is not explained.
- Lest one thinks this is a victimless crime, Army Radio reports that a vaccination center in Bnei Brak will be closed for a week after it emerged that shots were being given to youngsters. Those who had appointments will now have to wait an extra week in the high-infection city before getting their shot.
- For those without connections, chutzpah or the patience to wait in line, Yedioth Ahronoth publishes the results of an investigation looking at whether someone willing to “donate” NIS 1 million to a hospital can get a vaccine for his troubles — also known as a bribe.
- The answer, is that yes, some hospitals were willing to take money from a young Russian oligarch who did not actually exist and give him a shot in exchange. Also troubling, the story only notes one hospital, Kaplan in Rehovot, that actually tried to check into the guy and found out he’s not real, though it did seem open to the bribe before then.
- “A lot of people are coming to us, there are unending pressures to give people the vaccine here and now,” one unnamed hospital official tells the paper, lest you thought this was only a hypothetical. “And since everyone is breaking the law, we have no choice. At first we said no, and then we saw all the time pictures of people vaccinating at nearby hospitals. There’s some sort of competitiveness going on. What’s more, the Health Ministry itself sent its whole senior staff to get vaccinated, even though most of them were under 60 and healthy.”
3. Silent fight: The shot free-for-all should come as no surprise to anyone who sees how the country operates, the latest sign of which are rising cases and a return to lockdown, starting Sunday.
- “Time after time, the government keeps missing the train for taking tough, differential measures against the virus. Then it declares that the point of no return has been reached and opts for the convenient, sweeping solution of a lockdown,” bemoans Haaretz’s Amos Harel.
- In Israel Hayom, columnist Ran Reznik points an accusatory finger at the public for not keeping regulations, but also accuses the coronavirus cabinet of trying “to cut corners,” including regarding allowing most school grades to stay open.
- “Since the start of the pandemic, these breaks have cost us dearly later on, and it’s hard to understand the Health Ministry agreeing to it or staying silent,” he writes.
- Despite estimations that the lockdown will need more than two weeks to work and will be extended, Walla reports that malls are already vowing to open back up January 10, no matter what the morbidity level.
- Kan reports that despite the lockdown, flights to and from Dubai will continue at a pace of at least one a day, with an average capacity of 80 percent.
4. The nutcracker: On the political front, the defection of Ze’ev Elkin from Likud to Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party continues to make waves.
- Channel 12 news’s Dafna Liel writes that unlike the other three elections when pundits predicted Netanyahu’s possible end, this time he’s actually facing a real threat: “Sa’ar has reshaped the political map. From a two-sided campaign with Netanyahu on one side and a center-left leader on the other, Sa’ar has turned this into an election season with at least four heads.”
- Haaretz’s lead editorial quotes extensively from remarks of former Likud loyalists who have joined Sa’ar and spoken out against the prime minister. “It must be hoped that those who have already broken the silence will be joined by others, who will show Israelis one simple fact – Netanyahu belongs in the dock, not in the prime minister’s residence,” it reads.
- Yedioth’s Sima Kadmon also gushes over Elkin, while acknowledging, as many have, the strangeness of a party of far-right wingers like Sa’ar and Elkin being the “Messiah” of the center-left: “In all the years of Netanyahu’s rule that were filled with defections and exits of confidants, people who were ready to draw blood and be shunted to the side, there has never been a text as courageous, upstanding, clear and reasoned as Elkin’s.”
- Netanyahu still has some friends, like Israel Hayom columnist Jacob Bardugo, who accuses Sa’ar and the MKs he’s gathered to his side thus far of being beneath the dignity of Israel’s highest office.
- “Opportunism, cynical party financed tricks and despicable manipulations of votes in the Knesset, the holy of democratic holies — that’s the first week in a nutshell of [their] glorious stateliness,” he writes, not sounding at all jealous that Likud didn’t think of those things first.
5. Cuddly as a cactus: ToI’s Jacob Magid pens an especially holly jolly analysis looking at how whether Netanyahu will revert to campaigning with the White House as a foil rather than friend now that Donald Trump is leaving.
- The advice of everyone who speaks to him is that Netanyahu would be insane to kick things off by trying to turn Biden into his grinch: “Creating a rift would be a bad way to get started with a Democratic White House and possibly a Democratic Congress,” says Mark Mellman, a political strategist and president of the Democratic Majority for Israel. “I don’t assume that he’ll make that mistake.”
- There are also signs he may be distancing himself from the US administration, if one wants to read into Israel Hayom’s downplaying of a rare interview with Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz, something it would have splashed across its front page in the past, but gets barely any mention on the A1 on Friday, aside from a tiny pull quote.
- Or perhaps it’s simply that the two did not say anything especially important and the most telling part of the interview was their continued refusal to acknowledge that they will be out of the White House in less than a month.
- “If I finish my job on Jan. 21, the first thing I’ll do will be to get some normalcy back in my life after four years. As far as shidduchim – are you a matchmaker?” Berkowitz is quoted saying in answer to a final softball lobbed his way.
- Haaretz interviews the Washington wonks behind a new report triple-dog-daring the US to lead from behind on the peace process once Biden takes office, instead letting some of Israel’s new buddies chip in: “Part of the potential of the Abraham Accords is for Arab states who now have direct interest to be involved in a productive way,” Michael Koplow, one of the authors, is quoted saying. “It’s a recognition of the fact that these neighbors often have more interest, and are more directly impacted, than the United States.”