Netanyahu ‘won’t go into quarantine’ despite close aide testing virus-positive

A close aide to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tested positive for Covid-19. But the 70-year-old politician is not expected to go into 14-day self-isolation, amid fevered talks on a unity government.

Rivka Paluch’s test for the coronavirus came back positive shortly after her husband was taken to hospital with the disease. The veteran politician serves as Netanyahu’s adviser on ultra-Orthodox affairs and was involved in organizing a Knesset vote last Thursday.

After her diagnosis was revealed, some Israeli media said the prime minister and some members of his cabinet will now have to enter a 14-day quarantine. But hours later the premier’s office said isolation will likely not be necessary and that Health Ministry specialists were conducting an epidemiological study to determine the course of action.

Paluch earlier told The Jerusalem Post that, contrary to earlier reports, she didn’t engage with Netanyahu in person last week when she helped prepare the Knesset vote. She said it was very unlikely that she had passed the virus to the prime minister.

Paluch’s husband apparently contracted the virus during a hospital visit, she said. Both spouses have minimal symptoms of Covid-19 and the aide didn’t expect her test would come back positive.

Netanyahu reportedly has had multiple negative coronavirus tests since mid-March and intends to submit to one on Monday. As of Sunday night, there were 4,347 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Israel, with the death toll standing at 16. Seven members of parliament had gone into self-isolation by Sunday, due to exposure to carriers of the virus.

Paluch, 64, is considered a high-risk patient due to her age. So would be Netanyahu, if his test came back positive.

In addition to dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak, Israel is undergoing political turmoil at the moment. Netanyahu, who has three corruption cases hanging over his head, is trying to hammer out a deal on forming a unity government with his rival, Benny Gantz.

Gantz was elected Knesset speaker last week, but it cost him the support of two former members of his Blue and White coalition, who would rather be in opposition than in a government headed by Netanyahu.