Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel; David Cohen / Flash90
MK Miki Zohar vs. MK Yifat Shasha-Bitton

The Knesset Coalition Chairman, MK Miki Zohar (Likud), on Tuesday told 103FM he had only one regret about his entire career – that I wasn’t able to remove the chairwoman of the Corona Committee, MK Yifat Shasha-Bitton from her position.

Zohar blamed the former Likud member for Israel’s high death toll as a result of the Corona crisis, and claimed: “If we had ousted Shasha-Biton, we would not have had such a high number of dead.”

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“Shasha-Bitton did things that would go down in the pages of Israel’s history. She was probably the main culprit in our current 9,000 daily infections.

Zohar made his remarks in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial statement yesterday, which implicitly blamed Shasha-Biton for his government’s Corona failures.

Meanwhile, an IDF Intelligence report published Tuesday morning in collaboration with the National Control Center for the Fight against Corona, showed that the infection rate in Israel had dropped to a coefficient of 0.97 over the previous 24 hours.

According to the Health Ministry’s update, there are 4,624 new cases of the coronavirus as of Monday, based on 90,751 test results. As of Tuesday morning, there are 729 patients in serious condition, of whom 234 are on respirators. 5,779 have died since the outbreak of the pandemic.

4,772,078 Israelis have received their first dose of the vaccine, 3,439,919 their second. It means that more than half the population is vaccinated, but since there are in Israel roughly 3 million children under age 16 who cannot be vaccinated, this also means that roughly 80% of eligible Israelis have been vaccinated at least once.

MK Zohar’s attack was probably not so much an attempt to correct the historical record, as to destroy a dangerous political foe.

After being appointed chairwoman of the Knesset Coronavirus committee, on July 13, 2020, MK Shasha-Bitton voted to reverse a government decision to shutter pools and gyms because of fears of contagion from the COVID-19.

Channel 12 reported at the time that Miki Zohar told her: “You are finished in the Likud party.” He added that she would also be removed from her post as chairwoman. However, Likud MK Gideon Saar expressed his support for her, insisting that lockdown decisions should be made based on data and not because of threats. Then, in December, the rogue chairwoman joined Saar’s renegade party New Hope which is currently in third place in most polls, following Likud and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid.

MK Zohar was unhappy with Israel’s media, too, and asked why they insist on criticizing for all the people who died but have nothing to say about all the people who didn’t die. “The media are hostile and not objective,” he said. “Why are they asking the prime minister about the number of dead and not about the number of lives that Netanyahu saved? All of them are mobilized to harm the chances of cobbling a right-wing government.”

When they don’t try to sabotage Netanyahu’s chances to remain prime minister, Israel’s media are quite supportive of his vaccination efforts. Ido Efrati wrote in Haaretz on Tuesday that the vaccinations have changed the landscape. What must come next, Efrati argues, is a vaccine for children under 16, whose rate of infection has been climbing alarmingly.

Prof. Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute holds a similar view: “We have reached a majority of first-dose vaccinations from the age of 16 and up, and immunity is growing day by day,” he said, adding, “We understand that vaccines are very effective in preventing disease, and there are already studies that show that they are also effective in preventing infection. All of these parameters change the picture.”

Prof. Segal’s worst-case scenario is also more optimistic than in the past. “If the coefficient of infection suddenly rises to 1.3 and remains so for long weeks, we will reach a doubling rate of the number of patients once every two weeks. But this time, unlike in the past, we will be able to absorb two or three doublings before the hospitals fill up and reach a state of 1,200 severe patients as we’ve seen at the height of the third wave. This is different from the period of the first lockdown when it was clear that if the infections coefficient reached above 1 nothing would stop it, and the rate of the spread could be predicted,” he said, noting that “now it’s more difficult to predict where this will go, and the vaccines may stop the increase.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.