Israel has passed a law banning mass protests during the country’s coronavirus blockade, which government opponents say is exploiting the health crisis to quell demonstrations calling for Benjamin Netanyahu to resign as prime minister.
The disputed legislation was approved at 4.30am local time (1.30pm GMT) on Wednesday after a full day session by the country’s parliament, the Knesset. It allows the government to restrict people from traveling more than 1
Critics say it actually criminalizes weekly rallies in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where thousands have expressed anger at Netanyahu’s treatment of the pandemic, as well as allegations of alleged corruption, which he denies.
Several hundred people had gathered outside the Knesset on Tuesday to condemn the new laws.
“I think we can see that they are not aimed at stopping the pandemic or the coronavirus, but this is a political constraint to stop and kill the demonstrations against Netanyahu,” said Yaniv Segal, an actor who has been out of work for several months. .
“This is an anti-democratic law. Just to stop the resistance against a prime minister who is corrupt and accused of many crimes. “
Netanyahu’s ruling party, Likud, had previously demanded that the ban on mass protests remain in place even after the blockade was lifted, but lawmakers rejected the proposal. The new law can only be used during locking.
Following the passage of the law, Jair Lapid, the leader of the opposition, wrote on Twitter: “What is the next step? Prohibition of the opposition leader from addressing the parliament? “
Israel has reported some of the highest daily levels of coronavirus infections in the world, and a military body said Tuesday that deaths in the country have surpassed the United States.
While the spring blockade has managed to lead to very low levels of infection, officials say the country is open too quickly and with few restrictions.
“We were not careful. “We weren’t careful how we got out of the last lock, I don’t think we’re doing enough to reduce infection and morbidity,” Health Ministry Director General Hezey Levy told public radio.
The three-week blockade this month forced all insignificant businesses to close and largely shut down the country.
Protest leaders have questioned the science behind the new rules, saying outdoor rallies do not pose a significant risk of infection, especially compared to indoor religious gatherings, which have been identified as hotspots.
Netanyahu’s critics accuse the prime minister, whose government is backed by powerful Jewish ultra-Orthodox politicians, of not doing enough to restrict religious gatherings. This month, Netanyahu lifted a plan for local blockades that would greatly affect religious communities, following pressure from ultra-Orthodox mayors.
“I’m not saying I have anything against religious people. I don’t, “said Leary Burak Shavit, 44, a psychologist at Tuesday’s protest. “But we see that most of the crown is in the cities of religious people.
“Religious people did not want this to continue. They said, “Bibi, we won’t vote for you next time if you do,” she said. “Then, in a minute, the whole country had to close. People are angry, people are angry. ”
In response, very deeply religious Israelis believe they are being unfairly targeted and point to the fact that ultra-Orthodox communities often live in poor, congested areas where infections can spread quickly.
Israel has registered more than 234,000 infections and 1,516 deaths in a population of 9 million. On Tuesday, Health Minister Juli Edelstein rejected the measures to be lifted completely in three weeks, as originally planned.
“There is no way in 10 days to remove all restrictions and say that everything is over, everything is fine,” he told Cannes public television. “The opening of our economy and our lives will be gradual and slow.”