Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked scrambled to explain herself on Tuesday after tweeting and deleting a message that appeared to say that the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed thousands of lives in Israel, was “fake.”
“We have beaten the fake coronavirus disaster; reality will also be victorious over the next fakes,” Shaked wrote on Twitter.
Her remark came with the government battling vaccination hesitancy as it prepares to authorize the inoculation of children aged 5-11. Currently only those aged 12 and over can get the shots.
The minister quickly deleted the post and fired off follow-up messages clarifying her point that government policy, centered on vigorous vaccination of the population, is what has brought Israel out of a recent wave of COVID-19 infections.
Shaked, in explaining herself, wrote that the “disaster prophecies for Israel didn’t materialize” even though the virus is running amok in Europe, and credited the difference to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s strategy of pushing ahead with a third booster vaccination shot for Israelis before the rest of the world.
Writing that in all European countries infection rates are breaking records, Shaked posted Health Ministry figures showing that the number of cases in Israel has continued to dwindle, with just 561 patients diagnosed the day before, a drop, she noted, of 19 percent compared to the previous Monday.
In a second tweet, Shaked stressed that “the coronavirus is not fake.”
“As someone who is a partner to managing the coronavirus crisis, no one can suspect me of meaning anything else,” Shaked said. “The intention was only about disaster prophecies that predicted the collapse of the health system, which didn’t happen due to correct management of the outbreak.”
Likud MK David Bitan, who fell seriously ill with COVID-19 last year, tweeted a photograph of himself receiving hospital treatment at the time along with the message, “Believe me Ayelet, this is not a fake pandemic.”
— דוד ביטן (@davidbitan) November 9, 2021
“I am surprised at you Bitan,” shot back Shaked. “You know more than anyone how much effort I put into bringing in the vaccines, advocating for vaccination and setting up the Green Pass,” the certification that grants vaccinated and recovered Israelis access to public venues and events with a large attendance.
MK Bezalel Smotrich, who leads the far-right Religious Zionism party, also had a go at Shaked, tweeting that the coronavirus is not “a fake disaster.”
“8,124 people dying is not ‘a fake disaster,'” Smotrich wrote, quoting the Israeli death toll from the disease since the start of the outbreak early last year.
“I expect a cabinet minister to behave honorably,” he wrote.
Health Ministry figures published Tuesday showed that of 6,198 active COVID-19 patients, there are 161 in a serious condition.
Of Israel’s roughly 9.5 million population, 6,250,208 have received at least one vaccination shot, of whom 5,746,166 have had two doses and 3,996,567 have had the third booster dose.
Israel appears to be exiting its fourth wave of virus infections, which a month ago saw the daily caseload at over 2,000 new patients, and peak daily infections in recent months topping 10,000.