The coronavirus cabinet meeting opened Monday with Defense Minister Benny Gantz slamming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his latest economic plan that he unveiled in a surprise press conference just hours before minister were set to convene.
The coronavirus cabinet reconvened to continue discussing the implementation of the "Green Pass" outline that allows the reopening of almost all economy sectors to Israelis who have received both vaccine shots.
Instead the large portion of the meeting was dedicated to the economic plan meant to aid those hurt by the pandemic's subsequent economic crisis. The nine-step plan expected to be presented in the Knesset later in the day by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz and set to cost the taxpayer around NIS 15 billion.
"We need to reopen carefully. There are economic problems, so we have built an economic plan that [Blue & White} are not willing to work with. The answer is not to reopen but to find the right balance while gradually reopening," said Netanyahu.
Gantz replied that Blue & White are not against the economic plan but against the "election bribery," referring to the fact that the newly-revealed plan is set to be implemented before the national vote on March 23.
The presentation of the economic plan came as a surprise to all senior officials of the Finance Ministry, who did not know about Netanyahu and Katz's proposal. "It's all political," said a senior Treasury official, who was involved in formulating the plan last week but was not updated on the widescale changes.
Senior Treasure officials who oppose the plan say there is currently no room to distribute more money to the public and that the state budget deficit was ballooning even before the plan. Katz did not respond to their pleas to avoid the new plan.
The plan was announced by Netanyahu and Katz in a special press conference and includes NIS 750 one-time payment to every adult, NIS 500 to each child with the family of four children and NIS 300 payment from the fifth child and up.
Once the cabinet's debate moved on from the economic plan, coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash expressed the Health Ministry's position and urged ministers not to lift the restrictions too soon.
"There are over 5,000 daily cases and about a thousand serious cases. If someone had said two months ago that in today's situation we would reopen the economy, I would have said they were crazy," Ash said.
"We're opening up because we see the importance. The numbers are improving, but as the economy opens up, they will go back up and that would be awful. An irresponsible opening will lead to another lockdown. Is it good for the economy or education? Next week, we will reach three million vaccinated, but that is only a third [of Israel's population]. This is far off herd immunity."