Foreign Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid has not attended a single meeting of the coronavirus cabinet since it was reinstated in late June.
According to the law establishing the government, Lapid must be a member of the coronavirus cabinet. He also serves as the alternative chairman of the cabinet in the event that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett cannot attend. Yet he has not shown up to any of the four meetings that have been held over the past six weeks, the Kan public broadcaster revealed on Wednesday.
In response to the report, Lapid said that his presence is not necessary at the meetings and that his representatives attend and keep him updated.
“Representatives of Lapid attend the cabinet meetings, including the director of the Alternative Prime Minister’s Office and representatives of the consular branch of the Foreign Ministry,” and provide Lapid with “continuous updates on the hearings,” his office said in a statement to Kan.
“In general, it is ideal that in meetings, and especially in cabinet meetings, there will only be people present who have a direct connection to the meeting itself and are professionals,” the statement added.
Just 12 out of the 27 cabinet ministers, including Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, are members of the coronavirus cabinet, including Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, Economy Minister Orna Barbivai and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton.
Opposition figures were quick to slam Lapid following the report.
“While Bennett is dragging Israel to a lockdown, Lapid doesn’t even show up to the coronavirus cabinet meetings,” tweeted opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
Likud MK Yoav Kisch called on Lapid to resign.
“Lapid thinks he’s unnecessary at the coronavirus cabinet,” Kisch tweeted. “The truth is, Lapid, you’re right. You really are unnecessary — please quit.”
Officials in the coalition also reportedly expressed anger at Lapid’s behavior. According to Channel 12 news, some government figures believe Lapid is attempting to shift responsibility for the cabinet’s decisions to Bennett and the other ministers.