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Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu tests positive for COVID

Former prime minister feeling well; corruption trial likely to be delayed

Opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on February 14, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on February 14, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tested positive for COVID-19, his spokesperson said Wednesday.

Netanyahu, 72, is feeling well and following Health Ministry guidelines, the announcement read.

Following the announcement, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wished Netanyahu a speedy recovery.

Yamina MK Shirly Pinto from the coalition said on Wednesday she tested positive for COVID-19 as well.

The coalition numbers just 61 of the 120 Knesset members, meaning any single lawmaker can hold the crucial vote on any legislation, complicating the day-to-day business of the government.

The coalition has been forced to pull multiple votes in recent weeks for this reason.

Shirley Pinto communicates with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a swearing-in ceremony of new parliamentarians at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In December last year, Pinto was reluctantly called to the Knesset by her party six days after giving birth due to the opposition’s refusal to offset her absence, in what Bennett called “a new low in behavior” by opposition leader Netanyahu.

Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, the Knesset is yet to approve a process that will allow lawmakers to vote from afar.

On Monday, Netanyahu attended a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset, meaning that everyone who came in close contact with him will need to get tested and remain in isolation until they receive a negative test result if they’re not vaccinated or haven’t recovered from the disease.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s positive test is also likely to delay his ongoing corruption trial, following several delays over the past few weeks.

Court proceedings were delayed two weeks ago after judge Moshe Bar-Am, one of three judges overseeing the trial, tested positive for COVID-19.

Last week, Israel began rolling back nearly all of its COVID-19 health regulations as a recent wave of infections receded, leaving in place just a handful to prevent a reversal of the positive development.

The changes come as the count of new daily cases has ebbed to barely a ninth of what it was a month ago.

The number of seriously ill patients as of Wednesday morning was 410, nearly a third of what it was just over a month ago. The death toll since the start of the pandemic is 10,322.

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