Snubs, warnings against discrimination in healthcare, as ministers hand over duties

Snubs, warnings against discrimination in healthcare, as ministers hand over duties

The traditional handover ceremonies were held on Sunday when the newly installed ministers officially took office, though some chose to forgo public events and instead held private meetings.

At the Health Ministry, outgoing minister Nitzan Horowitz has called on his replacement, Aryeh Deri, not to let discrimination seep into the health system, the Ynet news site reported.

Horowitz was referring to legislation planned by the new government that would open the door to discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Last week, the incoming Minister of National Missions, Orit Strock, of the far-right Religious Zionism party he claimed that doctors should be able to refuse treatment to a patient if he offends the doctor’s faith and another doctor is available in his place. His comments sparked outrage from medical professionals.

“Health equality is a supreme value that we must protect at all costs,” Horowitz said at the ceremony, which was closed to the media but reported by Ynet.

“We must not bring politics to health care. God forbid. It would be a disaster,” he said.

Should the health system allow a doctor “not to treat such and such a person because it goes against his faith”? asked Horowitz, who is openly gay.

“This [would be] the end of the healthcare system, of Israeli and Jewish morality,” he reportedly declared. “This will never happen. This terrible idea will not reach the health system.”

Members of the LGBTQ community and supporters take part in a protest against the new Israeli government in Tel Aviv on December 29, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The outgoing director general of the Ministry of Health, Nachman Ash, also appealed to Deri to avoid any potential bias.

“I am ashamed that there is a need for a campaign to prevent discrimination in the health system,” he said.

Dozens of companies and other entities, including medical colleges, have delayed against changing anti-discrimination laws, and some say they will boycott fans.

Interior and Health Minister Aryeh Deri at a ceremony for incoming Social Affairs Minister Yaacov Margi (not seen) at the Social Affairs Ministry in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

In his own remarks at the handover ceremony, Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said the Health Ministry “is a very big and important challenge. I accepted the position because I see great importance and significance in it. We came to work and do good for all the citizens of Israel and with God’s help, we will do it.”

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Transport Minister Miri Regev refused to hold public handover ceremonies with their predecessors.

Levin met privately with outgoing minister Gideon Sa’ar. Ynet reported that the reason for the boycott of a public event was apparently due to Sa’ar’s animosity towards former ally Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of whom Levin is a close acquaintance and long-time confidante.

Levin said in a statement that he thanked Sa’ar for his service and wished him luck in the future, while the outgoing minister stressed the importance of the portfolio.

Outgoing Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar meets with successor Yariv Levin in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2023 (Michael Dimenstein/GPO)

It was unclear why Regev chose to skip the public handover ceremony with outgoing Transport Minister Merav Michaeli. Regev served as transport minister in Netanyahu’s last government and was succeeded by Michaeli after the 2021 election.

Later Sunday, outgoing Defense Minister Benny Ganz was due to hand over the post to new Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv. In 2011, Gallant was one of the leading candidates to become IDF chief of staff, but had to resign from the position after being embroiled in a scandal involving the invasion of his home and garden on public land. Gantz was appointed to the position in his place.

Netanyahu’s new government was sworn in last Thursday. The prime minister maintained a relatively short transition meeting with the outgoing prime minister, Yair Lapid, after the swearing in of the new government, skipping the traditional ceremony that accompanies the transfer of power.

There was no comment from Netanyahu’s or Lapid’s office about what the two discussed and no footage of them together was released.

Netanyahu had refused to hold a handover ceremony when former prime minister Naftali Bennett replaced him in 2021. Bennett then rotated the prime ministerial job with Lapid, in accordance with their coalition agreement.

Deri, who is also returning as home minister, also held a handover ceremony with outgoing home minister Ayelet Shaked. Shaked had received Deri’s ministry when she was appointed in 2021.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (L) at a handover ceremony with his predecessor Ayelet Shaked in Jerusalem on January 1, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Last month, the Knesset approved a law that allows Deri to become a minister despite his recent suspended sentence for tax offences.

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