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Senior cops are latest officials to be accused of breaking lockdown

Head of police’s Investigations and Intelligence Division and commander of Judea and Samaria Unit reported to have taken part in meal with over 10 guests in small windowless room

Illustrative:  Moshe Barkat (C), Police commander of the Judea and Samaria District attends a ceremony for the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat in the West Bank settlement of Efra on February 11, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Illustrative: Moshe Barkat (C), Police commander of the Judea and Samaria District attends a ceremony for the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat in the West Bank settlement of Efra on February 11, 2020. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Two senior police officers on Sunday became the latest public officials accused of flouting the sweeping coronavirus restrictions, prompting an internal police investigation into their actions.

According to a report by the Kan public broadcaster, Majors General Yigal Ben Shalom, head of the police’s Investigations and Intelligence Division, and Moshe Barkat, commander of the Judea and Samaria Regional Unit, took part in a meal last Tuesday that was attended by over 10 people, all other police officers, in violation of the current restrictions.

The meal, which took place during a visit by senior officials to the Samaria Regional Headquarters, in Ariel, was held in a small room with no open windows, Kan reported. In addition to the officers in the room, waiters came in and out to serve food and drinks.

Head of the Israel Police Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit, Yigal Ben Shalom attends a launching of the new National Headquarters for the Protection of Children Online, at the Ministry of Public Security in Jerusalem on November 19, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In response to the report, the police said that an internal investigation ordered by acting commissioner Motti Cohen would be held to confirm the report and decide on further action.

“Upon receipt of the report, the acting commissioner appointed the deputy commissioner to investigate the incident and the treatment of it required in accordance with the results of the investigation,” a police statement said.

“These days in particular, every police officer and commander is expected to set a personal example and conduct himself in accordance with procedures and guidelines,” the statement added.

The apparent violation of the coronavirus regulations is the latest in a string of cases of leading Israeli officials who have violated the rules enforced on the general public or have been accused of doing so.

Last Thursday, Israeli television reported that Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi hosted his in-laws during Sukkot in violation of the national lockdown.

The IDF said Kohavi’s in-laws, who live three houses away from him and his wife, came to visit and sat in the yard, with masks and social distancing. The military said that was the result of a misunderstanding, with the family thinking meeting in open spaces was allowed.

“The chief of staff is sorry for [the incident] and accepts responsibility,” it said in a statement.

Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman outside his home on February 11, 2016. (Flash90)

Earlier Thursday, the head of the Shin Bet security service apologized for hosting members of his family who do not live at his home during Sukkot.

“The head of the service [Nadav] Argaman apologizes for the incident and takes full responsibility,” said a statement released by the agency, confirming that he had violated the regulations.

Before the start of the Sukkot holiday, the government approved fines of NIS 500 ($145) for anyone caught hosting someone not of their household in a sukkah, or anyone caught visiting a sukkah that is not their own. The ban on visiting another person’s sukkah is set to remain in force for two days after the festival ends. Similar fines are in place for visiting others’ homes during the lockdown.

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel, who announced last weekend that she had been infected with the coronavirus, faced calls for her dismissal or resignation Monday, after confessing that last week she broke a lockdown limit by traveling from her Tel Aviv home to the northern city of Tiberias, a distance of roughly 150 kilometers.

She also reportedly tried to hide the trip from a Health Ministry epidemiological investigation into her infection.

Then-Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel attends a ceremony in Jerusalem on May 18, 2020. (Flash90)

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid announced last Monday that MK Mickey Levy will resign from the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee “by joint agreement,” after violating the lockdown rules.

In April, President Reuven Rivlin apologized to the Israeli people after it was reported that he celebrated the Passover Seder with one of his daughters, despite strict restrictions similar to current regulations that forbade family gatherings.

The report on Rivlin followed news that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had shared his festive meal with his son Avner, prompting outrage that top leaders were flouting their own rules while millions of ordinary Israelis were making sacrifices.

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