Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov, the man most familiar with Israel's national effort against coronavirus, will decide in the coming days whether to step down from his position as the ministry's chief.
According to sources close to Bar Siman Tov, this is a tough decision that has not yet been finalized and is contingent upon the identity of the next health minister.
Recently, Bar Siman Tov came under harsh criticism from government ministers and officials over the hardline measures he led against the deadly pathogen, and his newfound public and media fame.
Bar Siman Tov, along with the head of public health at the Health Ministry - Prof. Sigal Sadetzki – consistently promoted the most conservative measures at government and ministry discussions.
In addition, many ministers have criticized the Health Ministry chief for relaying new directives to the public before they were approved by the government.
Health officials told that Bar Siman Tov also had a falling-out with outgoing Health Minister Yaakov Litzman in recent weeks.
Since the Health Ministry director-general is a position of trust, the next health minister can appoint someone else for office to replace Bar Siman Tov, and he would like to take proactive action and avoid being ousted.
During a Sunday evening discussion, Bar Siman Tov objected to the reopening of fitness facilities in parks, but ultimately, the ministers tipped the scale in favor of opening.
In a recent disagreement with government ministers, the issue of reopening the country's beachfront arose, and despite submitting an outline for such a move, the Health Ministry later said it has yet to approve it.
"The issue is being discussed with the relevant local authorities and only after fulfilling all parameters set by us to safeguard public health will we allow [the beaches] to reopen," read a ministry statement.
Yedioth Ahronoth, Ynet's sister publication, published a profile story on Bar Siman Tov where several ministers, researchers, scientists, as well as a host of former and present health and finance ministry officials, told that behind the peaceful facade and calming voice hides a much more complex character.
A gifted person, but also very aggressive, arrogant, and often vindictive.
Some warned that his conduct backstage frequently made it more difficult for the state to handle the crisis.
Sources close to Bar Siman Tov said that he had fallen in love with his media portrayal as the face of Israel's battle with the virus, the one who whispers in the prime minister's ear and can change the course of life for an entire nation with a few sentences.
"His entire conduct over the years at the Health Ministry was mostly meant to nurture his media persona," told a former coworker. "His image is very important to him."
These recent testimonies of Bar Siman Tov's past and present associates paint him as a centralized and smug manager who refuses to listen to opinions that contradict his own, sometimes even at the expense of the public's health.
Sources claim this behavior began even before the Health Ministry director-general had taken office, and supervised the health budget at the Finance Ministry.
"He is a belligerent person who always thinks he knows everything and is always right," said one source.
"He keeps close to him only those who think like him and nod and say yes to everything he says," said a former Health Ministry official.
"He always gives you the feeling that he knows best. Even in medicine, although he is not a doctor," told another former ministry official.