For those criticizing the Israeli government’s management of the coronavirus crisis as chaotic, a new look behind the scenes Monday showed that the disorder apparently extends to the logistics of officials’ media appearances.
The government’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, was caught unprepared on Sunday night by a prime time press conference announcing details of the new national lockdown. Gamzu later said he had missed a text message informing him of the event.
Gamzu is currently in quarantine at home due to exposure to a coronavirus carrier. He found out at the last minute Sunday he was expected to participate via video conference in a press conference led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a video leaked to the media and broadcast Monday, Gamzu is heard raging at a Health Ministry official, saying it was “ridiculous” that he hadn’t been notified in advance, and that he would be speaking on what appeared to be a handheld phone camera.
“Why at the last minute? You knew about this for an entire day, only I didn’t know,” he says. “Why not get me a tripod? Why not get me a cameraman? Why? It’s prime time television.”
The Health Ministry representative tries to pacify him.
“Ronni, we like to hear you talk,” she says.
“Are you speaking in the name of the people, whose malls and shops I’m about to close? They don’t like me so much. Once upon a time [they did],” Gamzu says, referring to the new lockdown restrictions.
Also in quarantine at home and speaking via video was Health Minister Yuli Edelstein. He and Gamzu could be seen chatting as they waited to appear in Netanyahu’s press conference.
“My daughter wants to talk to me before bed, so Bibi should hurry,” Gamzu, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname, quips moments before the event begins.
The two then realize they won’t be able to see what Netanyahu is saying to the country before they are called upon to speak, and Edelstein says he’ll try to bring the premier’s speech up on his phone and show it to Gamzu on the screen.
At one point Gamzu tells Edelstein he’s just received “a very funny text message: Is it possible to pray at a protest?”
Some religious Israelis have bristled at the limitations placed on worship during the pandemic, while demonstrations against Netanyahu are allowed to take place unobstructed.
“That’s what they do all the time,” Edelstein sarcastically says of the protesters.
Gamzu later said in a statement that there was a miscommunication error between himself and officials, who had in fact notified him by text message of the planned press conference, but he said he’d missed it due to his heavy message load.