slander

Interior minister scrambles to dispel ‘slander’ he broke travel lockdown

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Tuesday that someone was spreading an unfounded rumor among journalists that he had broken a virus lockdown by traveling from his Jerusalem home to be in the northern city of Tiberias for the recent Yom Kippur holiday.

Deri’s denial came as a fellow cabinet member, Environment Protection Minister Gila Gamliel, faced a possible police investigation for allegedly having tried to conceal from Health Ministry officials that she was in Tiberias on Yom Kippur, even though her home is in Tel Aviv. Gamliel was diagnosed with COVID-19 after the holiday, and reportedly gave misleading information during an epidemiological probe to trace the source of her infection.

Though Deri did not name anyone in his rebuttal, the former mayor of Tiberias, Ron Kobi, posted earlier in the day on Facebook that “another senior minister” had been in the city on Yom Kippur.

Kobi and Deri have a personal beef, as the minister was instrumental in seeing the mayor dismissed from his position at the beginning of the year after he failed to pass a city budget.

Ron Kobi in Tiberias. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

“A message to members of the media: There is a detestable liar going to reporters since yesterday and slandering that I prayed on Yom Kippur in a Tiberias synagogue,” Deri tweeted. “The liar already said that to four reporters in an attempt to frame me. On Yom Kippur I prayed in an open space next to my home in Jerusalem.

“Don’t fall into the liar’s trap,” he said.

In a video message posted on the Knesset Channel’s Twitter feed, Deri said that his public relations adviser had called him in a panic after a reporter had asked