Gantz cancels meeting on vaccine contracts; political squabbling could lead to shortage, Likud warns

“We hear that in Europe there is concern about tightening exports on vaccines, and we may lose the window of opportunity,” warns Health Ministry Hezi Levy.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

As Israel emerges from its fourth election in two years with no clear winner, bickering between the Likud and Blue and White parties shows no sign of slowing down. As each side tries to flex its collective muscle, the internal power struggles in the Israeli government may result in far-reaching consequences.

On Monday, Blue and White Chair Benny Gantz cancelled a cabinet meeting where government ministers were set to approve a 7 billion NIS addition to the Health Ministry budget, specifically for obtaining additional coronavirus vaccines.

Gantz explained that Netanyahu’s Likud party and its allies were “refusing” to budge on the longstanding issue of appointing a permanent justice minister, so his party refused to attend the meeting to to approve the additional funding for vaccines.

The Likud’s unwillingness to appoint a Justice Minister “will bring harm to the rule of law and democracy,” Gantz said.

The move to cancel the meeting could potentially lead to a shortage of vaccines for Israel. As multiple countries scramble to obtain the vaccines, Israel’s delay in securing payment could mean that contracts with pharmaceutical companies are cancelled and the jabs sold to other nations.

Likud accused Gantz of placing politics over the health of the country, writing in a statement, “For appointments and jobs, Gantz is preventing the signing of contracts for millions of vaccines that are needed.”

The statement blasted Gantz for “acting irresponsibly, endangering the wellbeing and health of all Israeli citizens.”

Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levy was outraged by the meeting’s cancellation, telling Channel 13 News, “Not everything is politics – the government was supposed to discuss the current budget of the health system and contract with the vaccine companies.

“As we postpone these decisions, we will be pushed [to the] back [of the line] for procuring the vaccines. We hear that in Europe there is concern about tightening exports on vaccines, and we may lose the window of opportunity. There is a crazy race [to obtain vaccines.]”

Over the weekend, acting Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit released a statement, warning that without the appointments, Israel was heading towards chaos.

“A situation in which the Justice Ministry will be left without a permanent minister will cause severe damage to the ministry’s work and the functioning of the government – and everything that entails,” Mandelblit said.

“A situation in which the State of Israel will be left without ministers, and without a permanent Justice Minister, is a very unusual and politically serious situation.”