Naftali Bennett on Wednesday came under fire after it was revealed that his family has jetted off for a vacation abroad despite the prime minister's own call last week to avoid foreign travel due to the spread of the Omicron COVID variant.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the family had the holiday a long time ago with the original destination being in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
The office said the destination was eventually changed due to the discovery of the Omicron variant in southern Africa, and the travel ban Israel imposed on the region last week.
"After the decision of the coronavirus cabinet to leave the skies open, the destination of the vacation changed in accordance with the updated guidelines. The Bennett family will, of course, follow all the guidelines and rules that apply to Israeli citizens,” said the PMO.
Nevertheless, former Finance Minister Israel Katz from Likud said Bennett's "lies" in the political sphere have become a norm and his family's trip is "audacious".
"After advising Israeli citizens not to fly abroad, Bennett's wife and children are taking off for a vacation abroad. This is how it is when leading by example is trampled on."
Bennett responded to the criticism, saying his family is "subject to exactly the same rules that apply to all Israeli citizens".
"I understand the criticism, but since Friday we have learned more about the variant and in which countries it is spreading. My family was supposed to go on a vacation during Hanukkah to a country that turned out to be red. That holiday was immediately canceled and they booked a holiday to a country where it is allowed to fly to."
In his speech last week, Bennett said Israelis should consider avoiding all travel abroad unless absolutely necessary. “It comes at a complex time, on the eve of the Hanukkah holiday when the children are out of school, most of them are not yet vaccinated,” Bennett said.
“Some of us - my family as well - are planning Hanukkah activities with the children, events, entertainment and trips abroad,” added the prime minister.
Days after Bennett’s no-flight call to the public, the government's coronavirus cabinet convened to approve a set of new restrictions meant to halt the potential spread of the Omicron variant, including several restrictions pertaining to travel and Ben Gurion Airport, as well as phone tracking of confirmed Omicron cases.