Netanyahu offered ‘Israel’s Dr. Fauci’ spot on party’s roster: report

Report says Netanyahu offered a top slot in the Likud election list to Israel’s ‘Dr. Fauci,’ popular former Health Ministry director.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered former Health Ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman Tov a secure spot on the Likud Party’s election list, Channel 12 reported last week.

The offer would guarantee the popular former head of Israel’s coronavirus task force a place in the next Knesset after Israel’s upcoming national election, and give Netanyahu’s party a boost in the election campaign following the defection of several members to a new party.

The Likud decided to forgo internal party primaries to choose their candidates for the March 23 vote. Under Israel’s proportional representation system, each party submits a list of candidates before the election, and the top names on the list get a seat in Israel’s 120-seat parliament in proportion to the percentage of popular vote.

“Sources close to the decision-making center say that [Siman Tov] is expected to strengthen Netanyahu’s success in the war on corona and prepare an economic plan for the day after. Nothing is closed at this point, of course,” Maariv political analyst Anna Rayva-Barsky noted.

Netanyahu reportedly offered Siman Tov the number five spot. With recent polls currently showing Likud expected to win at least 28 seats, it would put him in the Knesset and make him a likely candidate to be minister of health, should Netanyahu form the next government.

The former director general of the Ministry of Health previously denied several weeks ago that another party wanted him and claimed he did not intend to go into politics, but the Netanyahu offer carries significant weight and with no public rejection it is estimated to be a good sign for Likud that he may at least consider it, Channel 12 reported.

An economist, not a medical doctor, Siman Tov was the face of the government’s coronavirus task force and seen as something akin to Israel’s Dr. Anthony Fauci, the lead on the American coronavirus task force. 

Siman Tov is given credit for helping Israel drive first wave infections down to near zero, but he then resigned his position in May, in part due to constant conflicts with the politicians who balked at the strict measures he was pushing to contain the pandemic.

Before becoming Health Ministry director general, Siman Tov served for 11 consecutive years in the Budget Division at the Israeli Ministry of Finance, helping to prepare national budgets, one of the factors that led to the fall of the government and Israel’s fourth national election in the past two years.

After veteran Likud member Gideon Saar split from the party earlier this month to run against Netanyahu, the Likud leader has been trying to recruit popular politicians to bolster his list.

This week Netanyahu met with long-time Netanya Mayor Miriam Feierberg and Haim Bibes, who heads the national council of mayors. Feierberg turned him down and Bibes is expected to do the same.