Prime minister's of israel Statement highlightning deep knowledge group at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem

PM Netanyahu's Statement with Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem

(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov, this evening (Wednesday, 1 April 2020), at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, issued statements. Following are the Prime Minister's remarks:

 

"Citizens of Israel, we are still in the midst of an international tsunami. The corona pandemic is engulfing continents and countries – almost every country on earth. This is a mighty storm. The world is at one great front.

 

I spoke again, several days ago, with my friend Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. I heard from him about the awful tragedy striking the people of his country; thousands have died in recent weeks. I asked him: 'Giuseppe, what is your lesson from all this?' He answered me: 'Bibi, do the hard things sooner rather than later.' This is what we have done since the onset of the crisis.

 

The government, the health system, the IDF, the security services, the Defense Ministry and all other vital elements, and you, citizens of Israel, and I am proud of you, we are all investing great effort, day and night, to overcome the virus. In the stern test that has been forced upon us – we are determined to win.

 

Yesterday we saw the health survey that was published by a distinguished Hong Kong company. It ranked Israel in first place in the index for the safest countries in the world against the spread of corona – ahead of Singapore, ahead of Hong Kong, ahead of Taiwan. This says that up until now we have made the right decisions and we made them on the go, and they are never perfect. This does not say, however, that the danger is behind us. We are not falling into the trap of complacency. We are not slackening, even for a moment, in our effort to control the epidemic.

 

Today we are a critical juncture. We have the possibility to continue moving forward, with the same handful of countries which have apparently blocked the coronavirus. Be we are liable – G-d forbid – to falter, with the same countries that already have thousands of dead. In the last 24 hours in New York, someone has died every four minutes. The situation is similar in Spain. Britain, the Netherlands and other advanced countries are waging a desperate struggle not to go there.

 

We heard last night from President Trump a forecast according to which 100,000-250,000 people are liable to die from the coronavirus in the US in the coming weeks. I want you to know – this is the lighter forecast. Just so that you understand, this is comparable to 5,000 dead in Israel. We are doing everything not to be there, and the steps that we have taken up until now have given us the possibility of being in a situation in which we will not go there.

 

I know that this has entailed a difficult economic price. I understand this. We hear the cries, the distress, the difficulties. We are attentive to this; we will relate to this in a moment. But first I would like to tell you that we must save the lives of thousands, thousands, thousands, in Israel.

 

Citizens of Israel, we are doing everything in these circumstances to make things easier for you economically, especially before Passover. In the framework of our continuing struggle against the coronavirus, this evening we are announcing the following steps: The first step: I have instructed all ministries to present special assistance to the city of Bnei Brak. We are tightening the restrictions on movement into and out of Bnei Brak, and other areas as well, in order to prevent infection. When I say other areas, the intention is, for example, to certain neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv; you know the problem. I want to emphasize immediately, regarding Bnei Brak and any other place for which we are tightening the restrictions on movement. We will see to everyone and their needs.

 

I would like to point out that there has been a very positive change among the ultra-orthodox public. The ultra-orthodox public has well internalized the danger of the spread of the coronavirus. It is listening to the instructions and is behaving responsibly, with full backing from the rabbis. But we regret that in certain places, the disease has already spread at a redoubled rate relative to other places. Therefore, in consultation with the Health and Public Security ministries, with ministers Deri and Litzman, and with Rabbi Gafni, we have decided to reduce to the necessary minimum entries to, and exits from, the city. At the same time, we are evacuating the quarantined and the sick from their homes to designated hotels appropriate to the special way of life of this sector. We are doing this so that they will not infect other family members. I would like to point out that within Bnei Brak, it is possible to move around in keeping with the instructions that apply everywhere else in the country – 100 meters from the building, and so on.

 

I know that this is difficult but it is for the good of the residents, not just for their health but for their lives and for the lives of all citizens of Israel.

 

This is the time for the widest possible solidarity among us, all citizens of Israel. This is the time for mutual guarantee between all citizens of Israel.

 

The second step: We are asking you, citizens of Israel, all of you, to wear masks in the public sphere. If you do not have a mask, use a scarf or any other face covering that will reduce the spread of the virus to others. The Director General of the Health Ministry will give details about this presently.

 

The third step: Every Israeli returning to the country will, tomorrow, be quarantined at a designated hotel. We are allowing every Israeli to return home but at the same time we are doing what is necessary to maintain the lives of Israeli citizens; we are investing great effort in this. In difficult times, people return home, and Israel is home, be proud that you are Israelis.

 

The fourth step: Along with the Finance Minister, I decided to give a special stipend for the Passover holiday. Every family with children will receive NIS 500 per child up to and including the fourth child, of course up to age 18. Every senior citizen will receive a NIS 500 supplement to their monthly allowance. These grants will go directly to the bank, without forms, without bureaucracy, directly to bank accounts. The government will submit a draft law to this effect to the Knesset and I hope all parts of the house will support this in lightning legislation.

 

Another important clarification: I said that we hear the cries of the self-employed and we are making corrections. For example, it is possible for the self-employed to receive grants from age 20 and not from 28, something that we heard from you. There are other important corrections and you will find them on the Finance Ministry website. We hear the cries of the businesses that have been hurt and we are acting according to a compensation model.

 

I want you to know that businesses and economies are collapsing around the world. This is not unique to Israel and in Israel I would say that the situation is better. We are capable of making these corrections, of presenting this assistance, because our economy is strong and we will see to it that it remains such.

 

Only yesterday we received additional proof of the confidence that the global financial markets have in the Israeli economy. The Finance Ministry Accountant General raised 100 year bonds. He sought to raise $3 billion but we received credit offers of over $25 billion. Leading global financial elements stormed after our bonds and this is a great expression of confidence in the Israeli economy. It joins the expression of confidence that ranked us in first place in the index of the safest countries in dealing with the coronavirus.

 

But I have already told you: We cannot rest on our laurels because with corona, there are no laurels, there are only challenges, challenges and more challenges.

 

I ask you to continue being strict about our directives. Each and every one of you has a great responsibility. Those who follow to the instructions – save lives. It is neither a privilege nor a private decision; it is a human civic obligation. It is an obligation for yourselves, your families and all citizens of Israel.

 

Therefore, I ask you to carry out a very important instruction ahead of Passover. You are called on to have the seder and the Passover holiday only with the nuclear family that is with you now. That is, only with those who are already with you at home because a small seder is a safe seder. This year, more than ever, we will adopt the Passover festival of our forefathers in Egypt: Passover in houses. Every father and mother will have Passover with the children that live with them in the same house with strict observance, of course, of the rules of hygiene. I emphasize – only with those who are now with you in the house. Do not bring home your son who is a student in Be'er Sheva, the Galilee or any other place, and is not home, or your daughter the soldier. You need to understand, we are not in control of all possible infections that your son or daughter can bring home with them and infect you with. Therefore, it is difficult but there is no choice. Perhaps the most difficult of all – do not go to grandmother and grandfather; you are simply liable to be putting their lives in danger.

 

We will send volunteers and soldiers to the elderly so that they will not lack anything. As in the exodus from Egypt, the goal is clear: 'and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.' [Exodus 12:24]

 

What I have said about Passover also applies to Maimouna and the holidays of the non-Jewish communities. Let everything be done in the reduced family circle that is already in the house today.

 

Citizens of Israel, the entire world is in a tight lockdown. Small and large countries alike, old and new ones, are looking for protection and healing from the virus. This is a global time of emergency. Israel is a small country in terms of size and population but in our determination, creativity, spirit and mutual guarantee, we are a very large country.

 

Yesterday I spoke with a leading rabbi who is ill with corona. I wished him a complete and rapid recovery. He told me: 'It is a time of trouble unto Jacob, but out of it shall he be saved.' [Jeremiah 30:7]

 

Passover, the festival of freedom, reminds us how it was thousands of years ago when we challenged the great empire that enslaved us and we overcame it. We did not succumb to difficulties; we stood up and brought the message of freedom and liberty to the entire world. After the Yom Kippur War, my late brother Yoni wrote about Passover: 'This is the most marvelous holiday of all.' 'When I sail back through the unfortunate chapters of history, I pass through long years in which it seemed there was no light but it was not so because it is a fact that the idea remained, the hope existed; for me it attests to the eternity of Israel.'

 

Citizens of Israel, with G-d's help and yours, we will meet the current challenge. Our light will overcome the coronavirus. We are starting to see signs that, perhaps due to the steps we have taken, we are on the road to taking control of the epidemic. However it is too early to say so with certainty. In no way can we rejoice over an accomplished fact. Therefore, I ask, I entreat you, if we all observe the rules that I have asked you to observe, there is a chance that this Passover will be a turning point. At this time, let us join forces, close ranks and unite in a national emergency government, and again prove that the people of Israel live."