Police break up party in honor of Likud bigwig held in violation of virus rules

Despite hard limit of 10 participants at indoor events, at least 35 activists affiliated with Netanyahu’s party caught at Jerusalem gathering to honor Yaakov Hagoel Monday evening

Incoming chair of the World Zionist Organization Yaakov Hagoel. (Photo: ZOA)
Incoming chair of the World Zionist Organization Yaakov Hagoel. (Photo: ZOA)

Police on Monday broke up a party in honor of senior Likud figure Yaakov Hagoel attended by dozens of party members, for violating government limits on gatherings imposed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, public broadcaster Kan reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, at least 35 people (and possibly more than 40) affiliated with Likud attended the Jerusalem gathering in honor of Hagoel, who serves as head of the World Likud umbrella organization and vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization.

Regulations laid down by the government of Likud leader and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mandate that indoor gatherings be capped at 10 participants. Police officers who were called to the scene were filmed asking participants to leave.

The celebration, which was dubbed “Likud Eve,” was held to express gratitude to Hagoel’s allies who had supported him in his recent bid for reelection as chairman of the party’s global wing.

Elections were held last week, but were deemed too close to call. Netanyahu, who backed his ally Miki Zohar for the position, was rumored to have pressured Hagoel to drop out of the race.

Attendees, not all of whom were wearing masks, included former Likud MK Nava Boker, a local council head and multiple prominent Likud activists, according to the report.

Police handed a NIS 5,000 fine to the organizer, Yoram Yazdi, but let the event continue after demanding that some participants leave.

“The event was conducted in accordance with the regulations,” Kan quoted Yazdi as saying, while Hagoel stated that while the event had been held “outdoors” and was in compliance with the rules, he had left when too many people showed up.

This is not the first time that a public figure affiliated with Likud has come under public scrutiny over lax observance of social distancing rules.

Earlier this month, Kan reported that Health Minister Yuli Edelstein had attended a birthday party for his wife on the same day that the government announced a raft of new restrictions in an effort to contain the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein at the Health Ministry in Jerusalem, on June 28, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

According to Kan, Edelstein attended the event in honor of Irina Nevzlin at a private home alongside several dozen other people on Monday, soon after he had announced the new rules, which capped public gatherings at 20 attendees, but before they went into effect.

Edelstein denied wrongdoing, saying the party was in compliance with the rules as they were at the time.

“Sorry to disappoint the fake news writers, but the event I held in honor of my wife’s birthday was in the open — where events could be held at the time according to all regulations. A 20-person restriction on such open-space events did not exist, so everything was done according to regulations,” Edelstein tweeted after the news broke.

Edelstein’s predecessor Yaakov Litzman, a member of the United Torah Judaism Party, who tested positive for the coronavirus in April, was also accused of playing fast and loose with the rules, allegedly attending group prayer services in the days before his diagnoses despite such gatherings being prohibited at the time.

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