Israel media review

Vax on, vax off: What the press is saying about Shasha-Biton and the third shot

The education minister’s pro anti-vaccination leanings are raising hackles among some, and a booster dose gets the go-ahead

New Minister of Education Yifat Shasha-Biton speaks at a ceremony as she takes over from Yoav Gallant, at the Education Ministry in Jerusalem on June 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)
New Minister of Education Yifat Shasha-Biton speaks at a ceremony as she takes over from Yoav Gallant, at the Education Ministry in Jerusalem on June 14, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/FLASH90)

1. Shushing Shasha-Biton: It’s a new government and she’s in a new party, but lawmaker Yifat Shasha-Biton is back in the headlines for making a stew of trouble, only this time, it’s likely not the kind she likes.

  • In the last government Shasha-Biton made waves for tacking toward the populist winds and working against her Likud party’s leadership to strike down health orders she felt were excessive. For her trouble, she got a lot of threats of removal from chairing the coronavirus oversight committee, and a whole lot of ink.
  • Now, as education minister from New Hope, Shasha-Biton has dived back into the muck with her decision to throw in with the anti-vaccination crowd by pushing against vaccination in schools in a Channel 12 interview, calling such a practice a “crime.”
  • “Who’s going to heal the government of healing,” asks a smirking Israel Hayom in its top headline, smelling blood.
  • “The stench of the cult of coronavirus deniers and anti-vaxxers wafts within this cabinet,” the paper’s Ran Reznick raps.
  • Fellow tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth is no less snarky, running a nonsense top headline reading “When the truth comes out,” and expressing shock that Shasha-Bitton would be against vaccinations in school when her own prime minister is a supporter of vaccinations there.
  • Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer, writing even before Shasha-Biton opened her mouth, calls her “the closest thing the new government has to a COVID skeptic.”
  • “Her clashes with Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, director of public health, are tearing up the coronavirus cabinet. Even without the personal spats, school reopening is an acute dilemma,” he writes.
  • Fellow New Hoper Ze’ev Elkin gets lassoed into coming to Shasha-Biton’s defense, telling Army Radio that “she’s not anti-vaccination, she got vaccinated herself, that’s an wildly unfair attack. Shasha-Biton understands that she needs to represent a large community that thinks different.”
  • Party boss Gideon Sa’ar seems a little less willing to take the bullet for her, telling Kan that “we don’t see eye to eye on everything. You need to know how to take differing positions within a government.”
  • Channel 12 news also rallies to her side, reporting that some members of the Health Ministry body on approving vaccines are also against giving shots in schools. “Health funds know how to manage a vaccination campaign for youths well enough, and there’s no need to transfer that responsibility to schools,” one member of the committee says.

2. Uno dose? tres! Well great, more vaccines for the rest, then, I guess. With the Health Ministry telling HMOs to get set to administer a third dose for the elderly starting next week, it’s suddenly a relevant matter.

  • While some outlets note that the decision by an expert panel to recommend a third dose was not unanimous, Kan reports that the majority did back it, and the main area of dispute was over whether to give it to 60 and up, 65 and up, or 70 and up.
  • “It’s a complicated decision and there’s a reason experts are making it. There’s no way to test the longevity of antibodies. It’s an individual decision,” health expert Ran Balicer tells the station.
  • The Times of Israel points out that there are some questions about the data on vaccines losing their effectiveness that the Health Ministry is basing its decision on.
  • “Any attempt to deduce severe illness vaccine effectiveness from semi-crude illness rates among the yes or no vaccinated is very, very risky,” Balicer told ToI’s Nathan Jeffay earlier this month.

3. Gaza on the line: The Strip’s not quite heating up to Orville Redenbacher-levels of popping yet, but balloons are going up, and they’re not to announce a grand opening sale.

  • The consensus among some in the media is that the balloons are actually there to announce that Gaza is open to receiving more Qatari money.
  • “In the context of the Gaza Strip, Israel and Hamas have developed several methods of communication to circumvent their official lack of direct contact. One of the terror group’s preferred means of getting a message across to Israel has been balloon-borne incendiary devices,” explains ToI’s Judah Ari Gross.
    “Since the practice of launching them began in 2018, such arson attacks have come to serve as an initial, limited way of indicating to Israel that Hamas is serious about its demands — now, as in the past, for Qatari aid to enter the Strip — and that it is willing to escalate tensions, potentially to the point of combat, in order to see them fulfilled,” he adds.
  • Kan reports that Qatar has sent its own message to Hamas that the money tree will go barren unless they knock off the ballooning attacks.
  • “That’s not what we agreed on,” the station reports Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Amadi told Hamas. “The continuation of the balloons breaks the calm and endangers my efforts to get the Qatari grants going again; I need quiet for that and so Israel can go back to easing restrictions on the Strip.”
  • “Is the fire going to restart,” asks Channel 13, and it does not mean the balloon arsons. The station, along with several other outlets, hops on a Lebanese report that Hamas is giving Israel a week to get it the money or get a rocket sandwich in the face.
  • For a reminder that what’s at stake for Gaza is more than just hot air, The Guardian runs a piece using all sorts of bells and whistles to dissect an Israeli airstrike on the al-Jalaa tower during May’s 11-day war.
  • “Each time Israel said it was targeting Hamas and that it had warned the residents first. But what is it like to have only a few minutes to evacuate before watching your life collapse into rubble,” the British news outlet asks.

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