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Liberman, like Netanyahu and Rivlin, accused of flouting ban on Passover guests

Yisrael Beytenu chief reportedly hosted son and his fiancee at Nokdim home for Seder despite strict restrictions; blasts nationwide closure for holiday eve as ‘scandalous’

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman holds a press conference in Neve Ilan, near Jerusalem, on March 11, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman holds a press conference in Neve Ilan, near Jerusalem, on March 11, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman reportedly celebrated Passover Seder night with his son and his son’s fiancee, joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin in apparently flouting the strict curfew imposed on the country on that day to prevent people hosting family gatherings and spreading the coronavirus.

The news that Liberman — the former defense minister under Netanyahu, who has now become his sworn foe — had hosted the two at his home in the settlement of Nokdim was reported Sunday by Channel 12, which did not cite a source.

Asked to comment, Liberman did not deny the reported facts and instead launched into a broadside against the premier.

“The decision by Netanyahu and [Health Minister Yaakov] Litzman to impose a general curfew on all citizens on the eve of the festival… is scandalous,” he said.

Liberman alleged that the move had been an attempt to appease the ultra-Orthodox by not imposing a lockdown only on areas experiencing a local outbreak — almost all of which are predominantly Haredi — as well as a diversion from the “failure” that has seen the number of daily virus tests remain relatively low.

He also attacked Netanyahu for hosting his son Avner for the Seder at his official residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street: “The clear conclusion from Seder night at Balfour is that Netanyahu himself doesn’t believe in the methods he is instituting.”

Liberman, hours before the Seder on Wednesday, had published a social media post implying support of the lockdown measure.

“Soon we will be able to return to celebrating with extended family and friends,” he wrote in the post, alongside a photo of himself and his wife.

President Reuven Rivlin casts his ballot at a voting station in Jerusalem, during the Knesset Elections, on March 2, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Rivlin on Friday apologized to the Israeli people after the Kan public broadcaster reported that he had celebrated the Seder with one of his daughters.

“Before the Sabbath comes in, I want to apologize,” Rivlin, 80, wrote on Twitter. “I have read the harsh reactions to the fact my daughter accompanied me during the holiday and I understand most of them.”

Rivlin’s office said that “the president was accompanied and will be accompanied during the holiday by his daughter after she was tested for coronavirus and found to be negative.”

His office said that since his wife died, a family member has always been with Rivlin on Shabbat, holidays and flights overseas. Rivlin has four children. The report did not say which of his two daughters was with him.

“I understand that if one is unfamiliar with the schedule as president, it is difficult to understand and I am sorry for that,” he wrote.

Earlier, it was reported that Netanyahu had shared his festive meal with his son Avner, prompting outrage that top officials were flouting their own rules while millions of ordinary Israelis were making sacrifices.

Netanyahu was also slammed after his son appeared with him in a Seder video, despite the premier repeatedly urging the Israeli public in recent days not to visit with family on the holiday, and specifically beseeching young people not to hold the traditional meal with their elderly parents — unless they live in the same household — to prevent coronavirus infections.

In the video, the 70-year-old Netanyahu was seen alongside the 25-year-old Avner at a Seder table in the Prime Minister’s Residence, as the two read from the Haggadah.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his son Avner hold a Passover Seder, April 8, 2020. (video screenshot)

The video was apparently pre-filmed before the holiday itself, raising further questions, as Netanyahu was supposed to be in self-quarantine over the past week due to his contacts with coronavirus patients, which only ended Wednesday night.

Pundits and social media commentators claimed that in order to be with his father at the mock Seder, Avner, who shares an apartment in Jerusalem with his girlfriend, would have had to break social distancing guidelines frequently cited by the prime minister in his television appearances.

Sources close to the prime minister told Channel 13, “In the past month, Avner has spent many hours a day at the Prime Minister’s Residence while sleeping in his apartment adjacent to the Prime Minister’s Residence inside the secure compound. Avner behaves according to the directives of the Health Ministry and does not go out anywhere.”

Regardless, many commentators said the premier was setting a bad example by holding a Seder with his child after the public was compelled to avoid such gatherings.

The rest of the country celebrated the holiday under a strict curfew that was enforced from Wednesday afternoon until Thursday morning. This saw thousands of elderly people forced to spend the holiday alone, without their children or grandchildren, while everyone else celebrated only with those confined together in the same house.

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