Snubs, warnings against discrimination in healthcare, as ministers hand over duties

Former health minister Horowitz warns successor Deri that politics must stay out of health system; Justice Minister Levin, Transportation Minister Regev skip traditional events

Left to right: Deputy Health Minister Moshe Arbel, outgoing health minister Nitzan Horowitz, Health Minister Aryeh Deri, and outgoing health ministry director-general Nachman Ash at a handover ceremony at the ministry, January 1, 2023. (GPO)
Left to right: Deputy Health Minister Moshe Arbel, outgoing health minister Nitzan Horowitz, Health Minister Aryeh Deri, and outgoing health ministry director-general Nachman Ash at a handover ceremony at the ministry, January 1, 2023. (GPO)

Traditional handover ceremonies were held Sunday as newly installed ministers officially took up their posts, though some chose to forgo the public events and instead held private meetings.

At the Health Ministry, outgoing minister Nitzan Horowitz appealed to his replacement Aryeh Deri not to allow discrimination to seep into the healthcare system, the Ynet news site reported.

Horowitz was referring to legislation planned by the new government that would open the door to discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Last week, incoming National Missions Minister Orit Strock of the far-right Religious Zionism party asserted that doctors should be able to decline treatment to a patient if it offends the physician’s faith and there is another doctor available instead. Her remarks drew outrage from medical professionals.

“Equality in health is a supreme value that we must guard at all costs,” Horowitz said at the ceremony, which was closed to the media but reported on by Ynet.

“We must not bring politics into medical care. God forbid. It would be a disaster,” he said.

Should the health system allow a doctor “to not give treatment to this or that person because it goes against his faith?” asked Horowitz, who is openly gay.

“This [would be] the end of the health care system, of Israeli and Jewish morality,” he reportedly declared. “This will never happen. This terrible idea will not make it into the health system.”

Members of the LGBTQ community and supporters participate in a protest against the new Israeli government in Tel Aviv on December 29, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Outgoing Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash also appealed to Deri to prevent any possible prejudice.

“I am ashamed that there is a need for a campaign to prevent discrimination in the health system,” he said.

Dozens of companies and other entities, including medical associations, have pushed back against changing anti-discrimination laws, with some saying they will boycott bigots.

Interior and Health Minister Aryeh Deri at a ceremony of the incoming minister of Social Affairs Yaacov Margi (not seen), at the Social Affairs Ministry in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

In his own remarks at the handover ceremony, Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said the Health Ministry “is a very great and important challenge. I took on the position because I see great importance and meaning in it. We came to work and do good for all the citizens of Israel and with God’s help, we will do so.”

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Transportation Minister Miri Regev both declined to hold public handover ceremonies with their predecessors.

Levin met privately with outgoing minister Gideon Sa’ar. Ynet reported the reason for the boycott of a public event was apparently due to Sa’ar’s animosity toward former ally Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of whom Levin is a close acquaintance and long-time confidant.

Levin said in a statement that he thanked Sa’ar for his service and wished him luck in the future, while the outgoing minister emphasized the importance of the portfolio.

Outgoing justice minister Gideon Sa’ar meets with successor Yariv Levin in Jerusalem, January 1, 2023 (Michael Dimenstein/GPO)

It was unclear why Regev chose to skip the public handover ceremony with outgoing transportation minister Merav Michaeli. Regev served as the transportation minister in Netanyahu’s last government, and was succeeded by Michaeli following the 2021 election.

Later on Sunday, outgoing defense minister Benny Ganz was set to hand over to new Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv. In 2011, Gallant was a leading candidate to become IDF chief of staff but had to give up the position after becoming embroiled in a scandal regarding the encroachment of his house and garden onto public lands. Gantz was appointed to the role instead.

Netanyahu’s new government was sworn in last Thursday. The prime minister held a relatively short transition meeting with outgoing premier Yair Lapid following the swearing-in of the new government, skipping the traditional ceremony accompanying the handover of power.

There was no statement from either Netanyahu’s or Lapid’s office on what the two discussed and no images of them together were released.

Netanyahu had refused to hold a handover ceremony when former prime minister Naftali Bennett replaced him in 2021. Bennett later rotated the prime minister position with Lapid, in accordance with their coalition agreement.

Deri, who is also returning as interior minister, also held a handover ceremony with outgoing minister Ayelet Shaked. Shaked had received the ministry from Deri when she was appointed in 2021.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (L) at handover ceremony with predecessor Ayelet Shaked in Jerusalem, January 1, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Last month, the Knesset passed a law enabling Deri to become a minister despite his recent suspended sentence for tax offenses.

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