Emotions among Israel's health officials continued to be running high on Wednesday morning following Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's remarks on their handling of the coronavirus pandemic during his UN address two days ago.
"I was surprised, I thought the prime minister would have conveyed a real message and said 'let us learn from Israeli leadership that is based on the opinion of professionals, doctors and researchers leading the battle against the pandemic," coronavirus czar, Prof. Salman Zarka, told Ynet.
During his speech at the UN, Bennett said that "while doctors have an important input, they cannot be the ones running the national policy on the pandemic. The only person that has a good vantage point of all considerations is the leader of any given country."
Speaking to reporters before boarding a flight back to Israel from New York on Wednesday, the prime minister said he "greatly respects" the medical experts advising his cabinet but doubled down on his claims that he is not committed to implementing all recommendations proposed by them.
He also made several comments criticizing officials, saying, among other things, that "they don’t see the full picture" and that they "stuttered" when he demanded explanations for their call to further limit public gatherings.
Prof. Zarka said that he did not expect Bennett's speech to take such a dramatic turn when he began talking about the pandemic.
"Like many other people I sat down in front of the TV to see that speech, and when the issue of COVID came up, I thought he prime minister - who earlier spoke of Israel as a 'lighthouse' - will convey a message that the whole world is looking at Israel to learn about how to stop this cursed pandemic," he said.
"It is legitimate that this will be my expectation because it is the truth and in addition, I hear it all the time from the prime minister in internal and external meetings. He very much appreciates the health system, its executives and its work, and hence I was surprised that he was concerned mostly with who has more power."
Speaking to Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, Head of Public Health in the Health Ministry Prof. Sharon Alroy-Preis said that its officials "work with the utmost professionalism and dedication" and it's "important" for MKs to not question their expertise.
Director-General of the Health Ministry Prof. Nachman Ash said in an interview to Ynet earlier that he was surprised that in his UNGA address, Bennett neglected to thank health officials amid the fight against COVID-19.
"I thought the prime minister would say that the world can and does learn from Israel. I believe the Israeli health system deserves praise, and that was not forthcoming," Ash said.