He has presented himself as the only candidate who could have pulled off the deal with Pfizer to secure the early delivery of millions of vaccines, boasting of his personal appeals to Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, who, as a son of Holocaust survivors, had great affinity for Israel.
Mr. Netanyahu even posted a clip from South Park, the American animated sitcom, acknowledging Israel’s vaccination supremacy.
But experts said his claim that the virus was in the rearview mirror was overly optimistic.
Just months ago, Israel’s daily infection rates and death rates were among the worst in the world. By February, Israel was also leading the world in the number of lockdown days. About two million Israelis under 16 are so far unable to get vaccinated and about a million eligible citizens have so far chosen not to.
With much of the adult population now vaccinated, weekly infection rates have been dropping dramatically. But there are still more than a thousand new cases a day, an infection rate that, adjusted for population, remains higher than those of the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, Spain and others.
Health officials approved the reopening of businesses and leisure activities. But they sharply criticized a High Court decision this week lifting the quotas on airport arrivals, in part to allow Israeli citizens abroad to get back and vote.
“The High Court is taking responsibility for the risk of mutations entering Israel,” Yoav Kish, the deputy health minister, wrote on Twitter. “Good luck to us all.”
Critics blame the government for having failed to establish a reliable system to enforce quarantine for people entering the country, and health experts warn that they could bring in dangerous variants of the virus that are more resistant to the vaccine.