Netanyahu aides fined for violating quarantine rules after US visit for UAE-Bahrain normalisation ceremony

Netanyahu aides fined for violating quarantine rules after US visit for UAE-Bahrain normalisation ceremony
Two Israeli officials were spotted filming anti-Netanyahu protesters at a time they were supposed to be in quarantine after returning from the UAE-Bahrain deal signing ceremony in Washington
2 min read
23 September, 2020
Netanyahu was criticised for taking a delegation to Washington despite soaring Covid-19 cases [Getty]
Two aides of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were handed fines on Tuesday after violating quarantine restrictions imposed on them after they accompanied the premier last week for the signing of the normalisation agreement with UAE and Bahrain.

Netanyahu's social media adviser, Topaz Luk, and foreign policy adviser, Reuven Azar, were ordered to pay a 5,000 shekel ($1,455) fine after they were caught on video at a protest near the prime minister's home at a time they were meant to be in self-isolation.

The clips reportedly showed them filming maskless anti-Netanyahu protesters. Leaders of the weekly protests, which call for Netanyahu's resignation over corruption indictments, accused the pair of coming to the demonstration to film a group of alleged coronavirus deniers in a bid to discredit the movement.

The Israeli delegation's trip to Washington was already the focus of criticism in Israel as it took place as the country was placed under a new national lockdown due to soaring coronavirus infections.

US President Trump revealed last week that a White House staffer tested positive for coronavirus following the signing ceremony.

Netanyahu has rejected calls to punish his senior staffers, accusing critics of being politically motivated.

"Everyone who breaks quarantine should pay a fine, but there mustn't be selective enforcement. Jews, Arabs, left, right - I think everyone should follow the Health Ministry instructions and they should be kept and enforced equally," Netanyahu was quoted as saying during a cabinet meeting.

The Israeli delegation had already been exempted from the 14-day quarantine for Israelis returning from abroad, and are only required to self-isolate for 14 days and take a coronavirus test.

However, Azar is reported to also have breached coronavirus restrictions while in Washington by leaving the hotel where the delegation was staying. The group was under strict instruction to remain in small groups and not leave the hotel premises.

Israel is currently facing a multitude of crises that have polarised the population.

Facing a rapidly growing second wave of Covid-19, the government has imposed a strict lockdown which many fear will have disastrous economic consequences.

Meanwhile, its coalition cabinet has been paralysed in a deadlock since its establishment in March.

Israel has the world's second-highest detected virus infection rate after Bahrain, according to an AFP tally over the past fortnight, recording 187,396 cases and 1,236 deaths.

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