JERUSALEM – Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s former prime minister, tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, according to a statement from his conservative Likud party.
A spokesman for the party, Jonathan Ulrich, said in a statement that Mr Netanyahu, 72, was “feeling well” and following the country’s coronavirus guidelines. The former prime minister was in parliament on Wednesday morning before being informed that he had tested positive for a routine PCR test, according to Mr Ulrich.
According to the instructions of the Ministry of Health, Mr. Netanyahu must remain in isolation for at least five days and conduct rapid home tests on the fourth and fifth evening of isolation. If the results of both tests are negative and no symptoms appear for 48 hours, Mr Netanyahu will be able to leave the isolation at the end of day 5. A positive result will require him to remain in isolation until the end of day 7.
Israel has just emerged from the fifth wave caused by the Omicron variant, in which confirmed cases have risen to nearly 100,000 a day in the country. That number has already dropped to an average of about 6,500 new cases a day.
Mr Netanyahu has received four vaccinations, according to Mr Ulrich. In January, Israel began offering fourth vaccines to people aged 60 and over as the country prepared for an influx of infections from the highly contagious version of Omicron.
Israel lifted many of its remaining restrictions on Covid on March 1, including lifting restrictions on gatherings, opening the country to unvaccinated tourists and eliminating the need to provide digital evidence of vaccination to enter restaurants and most other places.
Another member of the Israeli parliament – Shirley Pinto, from the small right-wing Yamina party, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – said on Twitter on Wednesday that she also tested positive for the virus. She said she was the 61st member of parliament to be infected, although she did not specify what period of time she meant.
Parliament has 120 seats, but two elections in the country in March 2020 changed the composition of the chamber during the pandemic. Asked how many MPs have been infected in the current parliament, Parliament spokesman Uri Michael said: “Sorry, I don’t count.”
Mr Netanyahu was prime minister from 2009 to 2021, after serving a previous three-year term in the 1990s, making him the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history. He is now the leader of the opposition in parliament.
In addition to his parliamentary role, Mr Netanyahu is battling allegations of corruption in a trial now under way in the Jerusalem District Court. He was charged with bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three separate cases in 2019, accused of providing lucrative official services to wealthy businessmen in exchange for tangible gifts such as expensive cigars and champagne and less tangible ones such as coverage control him and his family in a large news agency.
An increasingly polarizing figure, while holding on to power, Mr Netanyahu led Israel in four turbulent election cycles in two years. Unable to form a majority coalition after the last elections in March 2021, he was eventually replaced by Mr Bennett.
On Wednesday, Mr Bennett, a former political ally who has been in several Netanyahu-led governments, wished Mr Netanyahu, now a fierce rival, a speedy and full recovery, writes on Twitter“I feel good!”