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Diplomatic faux pas: Israel forced to apologize to UAE after health officials slanders new ally

Deputy health director had said: “In two weeks of peace more people died than in 70 years of war’

Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of the Health Ministry’s public health department (Photo: GPO)

Israel apologized to one of its newest allies, the United Arab Emirates, after a top health official said that peace with the Gulf state has resulted in more Israeli deaths than being at war with the UAE, which Israel never actually was.

Channel 13 reported that Sharon Alroy-Preis made the inflammatory statement in meeting with hospital officials. Alroy-Preis was referring to the 130,000-plus Israelis who traveled to the UAE since the country began allowing visitors from the Jewish state after the historic Abraham Accords peace agreement was signed in September.

“In two weeks of peace [with the UAE] more people died than in 70 years of war,” she reportedly said in a meeting with hospital directors.

Since the beginning of December, 906 verified coronavirus carriers who returned from the UAE have been diagnosed with COVID-19 resulting in a chain of infection of 4,050 people, with about 14,000 Israelis exposed to those infected, according to to Home Front Command data obtained by Channel 13 News.

Israel has set record high daily infections in January despite an ongoing lockdown and a high rate of vaccination. Currently the country is locked down hermetically — including all land and air borders.

Alroy-Preis, head of the Health Ministry’s public health department, has been at the forefront of lockdown proponents and has called for Ben-Gurion Airport to remain shut for weeks.

“The six days that we have decided to close Ben-Gurion Airport will not be enough. We will have to extend the closure by at least a few weeks to buy time for the vaccination campaign,” Alroy-Preis said at the Knesset this week.

For several weeks at the end of last year, the UAE was considered a “green” country by Israel’s Ministry of Health meaning that Israelis who traveled there were not required to quarantine upon return to Israel. Israelis traveled unfettered to the alluring Gulf country making the three-hour flight over Saudi airspace.

However, the Health Ministry changed the UAE’s status to “red” again essentially putting an end to travel there and also chilling the diplomatic process in the meantime.

UAE officials apparently contacted the Prime Minister’s Office after Alroy-Preis’ comments were made public in Hebrew media reports.

Israel and the UAE were never at war, and while the comment could have been made in jest, it it not the first time Alroy-Preis has made stinging statements that have drawn a sharp response.

The doctor, who specializes in internal medicine, public health and preventative medicine and completed a specialization in infectious diseases and the prevention of infectious diseases in the United States, is being sued for defamation by a group of doctors whom she labeled “corona deniers.”

“Recently, another red line was crossed in the attack on a fact-based and open scientific debate … the attack did not go unnoticed this time,” the Emergency Public Council for the Corona Crisis said on its Facebook page, attaching the lawsuit, filed against Alroy-Preis in a Tel Aviv court.

Several of these doctors were interviewed in a recent Israeli documentary, “What if we are wrong?” that networks refused to air. The documentary questioned the premise of lockdowns in order to staunch the rate of COVID transmission and included the comments of several doctors and scientists who said their opinions have been excluded by the Ministry of Health in public debates in the Knesset.

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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