Israel’s Health Ministry Deputy Director Itamar Grotto announced his resignation on Sunday in what some in the health-care system described as a “surprising move.”

Grotto is the third senior Health Ministry official to resign since the coronavirus pandemic hit Israel in mid-March, following Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, his former superior and the man credited for helping the ministry navigate the corona crisis during its first wave in Israel, and professor Siegal Sadetzki, the ministry’s director of public health.

While he was excluded from many of the major decisions made by the ministry during the first wave of infections, Grotto had a bigger impact on how the crisis was managed in the wake of Bar Siman-Tov’s departure. Still, ministry insiders said he had again been pushed aside recently, potentially driving him to resign.

In a letter to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and ministry Director-General Hezi Levy, Grotto said, “After 31 years of public service in the IDF and in the Health Ministry, and at the conclusion of a particularly demanding year during which I served on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus, I have decided to leave my position. I hope to embark on a new path.”

Grotto stressed that “the professionalism and excellence of those who work in Israeli health-care system have been revealed during this difficult time, but I believe in injecting fresh blood into the system.”

While admitting that “there have been disagreements along the way,” Grotto said that “prevailing over them throughout the years has been a common desire to overcome difficulties and to do our very best for the welfare of the public.”

Looking ahead to the ongoing struggle against the pandemic, Grotto said, “We still have a long way to go, and it won’t be easy, but I am convinced that together, we will find solutions and learn how to overcome this virus, just as we overcame previous challenges.”

Levy lauded Grotto’s contribution to the ministry, saying, “Professor Grotto has to his credit many years of work in the public health system, in the IDF, in academia and of course in the Health Ministry.”

Edelstein added that in addition to being a “first-rate professional,” Grotto had a “huge heart” and was ready to help anyone in their time of need.

“Professor Grotto has been a great asset to the ministry for many years and the citizens of Israel owe him a great deal,” said Edelstein.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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