TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged Israel’s Arab sector of not adhering to the health ministry’s guidelines for combating COVID-19, including a major lack of social distancing in Arab population centers, and urged health professionals in those communities to call on the public to observe the rules for the sake of everyone.
“This corona is no longer a disease. It is an epidemic that hits everybody. It does not discriminate between Arabs, Circassians, Bedouin and Christians,” the prime minister said in a meeting with senior Arab doctors at his office in Jerusalem.
“There is a problem in the general public, and there is a problem especially in the small villages,” Netanyahu noted. “We are going to fix this immediately.”
The virus does “not discriminate between religions and sectors; therefore, all of the country’s citizens must be fully responsible and show strict discipline. We can take all the steps that we have and it will not help if the general public does not respond accordingly,” he added.
Netanyahu stressed that if one sector of the public is not following the restrictions, it would “lead to the infection of dear and beloved family members and the public at large.”
“There is mutual responsibility here,” the prime minister said.
“I ask for the cooperation of the entire Arabic-speaking sector, of Israel’s Arab citizens. I ask you, for yourselves and for our common future, please strictly follow the instructions,” he said.
Moshe Lion, the mayor of Jerusalem, which is home to some 350,000 Arabs, announced that the capital may soon enter a lockdown unless residents took the guidelines to stay indoors seriously.
In the city of Jaffa adjacent to Tel Aviv, where around 30% of the population is Arab, it seemed to be business as usual on Wednesday, with many cafes, knaffeh places and stores still open to the public.
The ultra-Orthodox sector of society has also come under fire for failing to observe the regulations. Four arrests were made when some 150 ultra-Orthodox Jews defied the rule against public gatherings with a wedding in the city of Beit Shemesh, including the father of the groom, an American citizen who arrived in Israel and failed to go into quarantine; the bride’s father; the caterer; and the wedding planner.