Rivka Paluch, the prime minister’s parliamentary aide, diagnosed with COVID-19. She spent time with Netanyahu and his staff at Knesset last week.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu with parliamentary adviser Rivka Paluch, who tested positive for the coronavirus / (photo credit: Courtesy)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his staff will temporarily isolate themselves until the end of an epidemiological study that is expected to reveal that he was not exposed to the coronavirus, his office said.
But Netanyahu’s office continued to deny reports on Monday that a decision had been made to quarantine him for a week after his parliamentary adviser, Rivka Paluch, was diagnosed with the virus.
His office said that Health Ministry professionals were conducting a thorough study to determine what needs to be done next.
The first indications of the study indicate that there is no need for Netanyahu to enter quarantine, because he did not meet with Paluch and did not come into close contact with her. They were not in the same room over the past two weeks.
Netanyahu, in coordination with his personal doctor, has been maintaining health restrictions strictly and is conducting most of his work from his home and most of his consultations by video.
Netanyahu intends to be tested for the virus again on Monday after taking it multiple times before.
Channel 12 reported on Monday morning that the prime minister will enter isolation for a week after Paluch tested positive for the disease.
Paluch told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday night that reports Netanyahu would have to be quarantined were incorrect.
Paluch said that while she did go to the Knesset on Thursday to prepare the prime minister for the vote for Knesset speaker, she did not have any real contact with Netanyahu.
An investigation by the Knesset found that Paluch had been in the Knesset on March 16, 23, and 26, so anyone who had been in her company for an extended period of time on one of those days must quarantine themselves accordingly.
If Netanyahu tested positive, he and his entire staff would have to be quarantined, as would Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, who spent eight hours with him overnight on Saturday night negotiating entering his government.
But Paluch said it was very unlikely that she had passed the virus on to her boss.
Paluch’s husband tested positive for the coronavirus before she did. She said he got it after visiting Ichilov Hospital. She said that both she and her husband felt well and had minimal symptoms.
Speaking before she got the positive test, Paluch said she did not think she would test positive.
Paluch is one of Netanyahu’s few female advisers. While most of the closest advisers to Netanyahu are in their 20s, she is a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) grandmother with many grandchildren. She is considered especially close to his wife, Sara.
A veteran of the Israeli political scene, Paluch once organized a visit of MKs and reporters to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas. She ensured that a lunch at the Mukata presidential compound would be strictly kosher.
British prime minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the virus and is quarantined. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau said Saturday that she has recovered from being ill from COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus. She and her husband had been self-quarantined.
Alex Winston contributed to this report