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Likud MK flouts virus restrictions during Passover, apologizes

In latest case of politician breaking rules, Nir Barkat acknowledges hosting his daughter despite directive for Israelis to only celebrate with those already at home with them

Likud MK Nir Barkat at a party campaign event in Tel Aviv on February 16, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Likud MK Nir Barkat at a party campaign event in Tel Aviv on February 16, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Likud MK Nir Barkat on Thursday apologized after it emerged that he, like other senior politicians, had violated government restrictions barring Israelis from hosting family gatherings or visitors over the Passover holiday.

According to Channel 12, Barkat hosted his daughter, who does not live with him, during Passover.

“MK Nir Barkat held the Seder with his nuclear family, as he thought it should be done. After clarifications on the matter, Barkat spent the final days of Passover only with family members who live at home. MK Barkat apologizes for this,” he said in a statement to the network.

In a Facebook post Wednesday evening to mark the start of Mimouna, a North African holiday that citizens were also directed to only celebrate with those with whom they live, Barkat appeared to call on Israelis to adhere to the restrictions.

“This year we will also celebrate together in one heart, but each person at his home,” he wrote.

Barkat was the third Likud lawmaker to violate the Passover directives, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Immigration and Absorption Minister Yoav Galant.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud Minister Yoav Galant at the Knesset on January 9, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Netanyahu caused a furor when he hosted his son at his residence in a video issued on Passover Eve (though it may have been filmed some days previously — when the Israeli leader was supposed to be self-quarantining). President Reuven Rivlin also hosted family in violation of the regulations, as did Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman and Galant.

All did so after the Israeli public was repeatedly urged not to visit family for the holiday to avoid spreading coronavirus.

Rivlin on Tuesday again apologized for celebrating the Passover Seder with my daughter.

Neither Galant nor Liberman apologized, while Netanyahu on Monday acknowledged the widespread public criticism against him, saying he should have been stricter about the rules, but stopped short of apologizing.

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

The premier also did not address whether the video was filmed before the start of Passover; until that evening he was supposed to be in self-quarantine due to his contact with a known carrier of COVID-19.

During the first night of Passover, Israelis were barred from traveling more than 100 meters from their homes, while during the last night and start of Mimouna they could not leave their hometowns as part of a nationwide lockdown that ended Thursday morning.

The restrictions forced thousands of elderly people and others 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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