In an historic vote Tuesday, Israelis voted out the Left-wing Meretz faction led by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, a chief architect of Israel’s notorious response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meretz had been a party in the Knesset since 1992.
Horowitz, appointed health minister in 2021, was instrumental in implementing harsh restrictions, including mask and vaccine mandates. Israel was the first country in the world to create a vaccine passport, called the “Green Pass,” in February 2021. China and other countries followed soon thereafter.
The Green Pass system barred anyone who refused the COVID-19 injections from entering malls, restaurants, stadiums, gyms, cinemas, theatres, schools, daycares, houses of worship, and other venues. They were also forbidden from taking driving tests, among other activities.
In December 2021, Horowitz and then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett decided to introduce a bracelet system in shopping malls which would publicly identify those who were unvaccinated, an idea they scrapped after an outcry from businesses.
Last year, Horowitz was caught on hot mic admitting that the Green Pass had, in fact, no epidemiological basis, but was a tool to nudge citizens to get the shots.
Horowitz made the comments during a conversation with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, admitting that there is no epidemiological basis but “the thing is - and I'm telling you this - our problem is the people who don't get vaccinated.”
“We don't want to do things that appear not to have, like, medical justification...But to you, I'm saying we've got a problem."
Horowitz is also notorious for showing up at events unmasked, even as he decreed children must wear masks throughout the day.
In April, just after Bennett’s coalition was thrown into jeopardy, Bennett and Horowitz made a joint decision to end the mask mandate earlier than they had planned.
On Tuesday, Horowitz’s Meretz party failed to secure enough votes to meet the threshold to remain in the Knesset, and with a decisive Right-wing victory and the comeback of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it is unlikely Horowitz will keep his post.
For his part, Bennett announced in June that he would not run again for office, a move considered prudent by his many critics. He stepped down from chairing the Yamina Party and handed the reigns to Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who also failed to secure enough votes to remain in the Knesset.