Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s social media adviser was accused of breaking quarantine after he was spotted Sunday evening scoping out a protest against the premier in Jerusalem.
Topaz Luk was part of the Israeli delegation that traveled to Washington last week to sign the normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. While Israelis returning from countries with high COVID-19 infection rates must quarantine for 14 days, members of the delegation only had to self-isolate for five days despite reportedly breaking agreed-upon health guidelines during the trip.
The delegation returned to Israel Wednesday, and was supposed to be in quarantine until Monday after taking coronavirus tests Sunday night.
Video showed Luk and Ofer Golan, the Netanyahu family’s spokesman, walking away from the demonstration near the Prime Minister’s Residence after apparently being recognized by a protester. The weekly protests, normally held Saturday night, drew some 5,000 people Sunday night despite a new national lockdown that began Friday.
One of the groups leading the ongoing anti-Netanyahu protests accused Luk and Golan of coming to the rally to film an alleged group of coronavirus deniers as part of efforts to discredit the demonstrations.
“Topaz Luk, the prime minister’s spokesman, was caught this evening in Paris Square violating quarantine, endangering public health, staging a scene of a protest against the coronavirus to establish the false and inciting campaign of the protesters as ‘spreaders of disease,'” the Kumi Israel group said in a statement.
המרדף: עופר גולן וטופז לוק נמלטים בחשיכה – רגע אחרי שנתפסו מצלמים מגחישי קורונה בשולי ההפגנה. נגד טופז לוק הוגשה הערב תלונה למשטרה על הפרת בידוד אחרי המסע המופלא למדשאות הבית הלבן. שנה טובה pic.twitter.com/U50wAZ74z5
— Yoav Glasner (@Yoglas74) September 20, 2020
Netanyahu and his supporters have claimed the protests are a major vector of infections, though health officials have said no new infections have been traced back to the rallies so far.
“Topaz Luk arrived to perform a coronavirus test in Jerusalem in accordance with the instructions he received from the Health Ministry upon his return from the delegation to Washington and afterwards returned to his home,” Netanyahu’s Likud party said in a statement.
It also said Golan was not required to be in quarantine, but didn’t explain why he was with Luk nor directly address Kumi Israel’s allegations.
Despite Likud’s assertion that Luk was going to take a COVID-19 test, the Kan public broadcaster said he was tested at 9:30 p.m., an hour before he was seen with a camera at the protest.
Media outlets also noted the testing site was at the Prime Minister’s Office, about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from Paris Square.
Photos on social media also showed Luk filming several mask-less protesters as he stood at the demonstration.
Gonen Ben-Yitzhak, a leading activist against the premier, filed a police complaint against Luk for allegedly violating quarantine.
הבחור בצד שמאל זה לא ההוא שהיה בדרך ל"בדיקת קורונה" ?
אגב בצד ימין זה יואב גלזנר שצילם את הסרטון שלהם. pic.twitter.com/lwgqWSaIah
— ???????? ???????????????????????? ???? (@iloveisraell) September 20, 2020
Sunday evening’s protest was part of ongoing anti-Netanyahu demonstrations over the prime minister’s indictment on graft charges and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Netanyahu is charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases. His criminal trial began in June, but he has refused to step down from office and denies any wrongdoing. Many demonstrators also protested against his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The protest on Sunday was the first major demonstration since a three-week nationwide lockdown began on Friday to curb Israel’s surging coronavirus outbreak.