Israel’s parliament, the Knesset,?passed a bill confining protestors to a 1 km radius (0.6 miles) from their homes in a national effort to slow the spread COVID-19. The bill is called The Special Powers for Dealing with the Novel Coronavirus Bill (Temporary Order) Amendment No. 2), 2020. It allows the government to declare a “special state of emergency” during the pandemic if it determines that a public health crisis exists. Under the bill, the government may order a national lockdown for one week and limit prayer gatherings to a certain number of people so long as lockdown orders remain valid.
The Novel Coronavirus Bill passed Wednesday, authorizes the government to extend the state of emergency for up to 21 days for one-week intervals, and grants the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee the right to annul the decision retroactively. The government may also extend the state of emergency for two-week periods at a time with the Justice Committee’s approval.
Critics argue that the law is an attempt to stifle democracy. “The Prime Minister has lost control of all aspects of life, and the citizens will bear the responsibility. This is a political lockdown that was imposed only for political reasons,” Member of Knesset (MK) Orna Barbivay (Yesh Atid-Telem) said.
Despite being a coalition member, MK Miki Haimovich of the Blue and White party announced she would vote against the bill:
This is the [moment of truth] with regards to everything related to democracy, freedom of expression, freedom of the individual and freedom of movement. In addition, this is also the moment of truth for the slight trust that still exists between the political system and the citizens of Israel. In order to succeed in managing the pandemic, we do not have to force far-reaching measures upon the citizens of Israel. Rather, we must take it upon ourselves to display dignity, concern and genuine compassion for the well-being of all the country’s citizens, and thus recruit them to a shared path that will overcome the health crisis, as well as the economic and social crisis we have found ourselves in.
Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairman MK Yakov Asher (United Torah Judaism) responded:
Mistakes may have been made, but I haven’t heard any member of the opposition say that we shouldn’t open [the economy]. Everyone is nice. No one wants to be the bad guy. But we also have to say what should not be done, not only what should be done. If a teacher has to tell 40 pupils that, as of tomorrow, they cannot play with a ball, but some of the kids can, then this teacher will clearly lose control over the classroom.
The new law goes into effect weeks after Israel entered its second lockdown?on September 18, the eve of Rosh Hashanah. The lockdown announcement spurred mass protests?demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s immediate resignation after a recent surge in COVID-19 infections. To date, Israel has documented over 259,000 infections and 1,633 deaths. Protestors have continued to rally against Netanyahu for mishandling the outbreak and have repeatedly pressured him to step down while on trial for corruption charges. Many have expressed fears that the new lockdown measures are being implemented primarily to stifle the ongoing civil unrest against Netanyahu’s administration.