‘Coronavirus Cabinet’ to Get Emergency Bill Ahead of Legislative Panel

The bill would allow the government to declare a state of emergency and issue regulations giving the cabinet other wide-ranging powers

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz during the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, June 7, 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz during the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, June 7, 2020Credit: Menahem Kahana/ AP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A bill that would give the government far-reaching powers to address the coronavirus pandemic will be considered by the special ministerial committee on the coronavirus, and only then be sent to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for approval, the cabinet decided Sunday.

The bill, which would allow the government to declare a state of emergency and issue regulations giving the cabinet other wide-ranging powers, was scheduled for discussion by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. Instead, the Ministerial Committee on Dealing with the Corona Crisis and its Implications, known as the "coronavirus cabinet," will begin discussing it on Monday.

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Discussion of two other bills relating to the pandemic – one that would bar detainees from meeting with their lawyers and one allowing the Shin Bet security service to track coronavirus patients – was also postponed until Monday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Benny Gantz both agreed to the delays.

The "coronavirus cabinet" will also discuss the recent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and “consider the necessary steps in light of the upsurge in the pandemic, including in schools, public transportation and in other areas as well,” Netanyahu said before the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday. He added that while part of the upsurge in cases was the expected result of “measures we enacted to ease restrictions in order to open up our economy ... some of it also clearly stems from a loosening in strict adherence to the rules regarding masks, distancing and hygiene.”

Even disregarding outbreaks at many schools around the country, the prime minister warned that “we see a clear increase in considerable sections of the country and of the population.”

Netanyahu, Gantz and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein also visited the Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona on Sunday, to get an update on efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

“We all hope and pray that these efforts will succeed,” Netanyahu said, adding that it would be wrong to rely on them alone. “Without being strict about masks, distancing and hygiene, we will be unable to meet our goals or put the economy back on track.”

On Friday, Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn announced several changes to the emergency powers bill in response to criticism of its infringement on human rights. For instance, any state of emergency will now last 30 days rather than 45 and police officers will not be able to enter people’s homes without a warrant.

In addition, any regulations issued under this law would require approval by the Knesset within a week, whereas the original bill required no Knesset approval of such regulations. And any movement restrictions on a particular town or neighborhood will be in force for only one week rather than of indefinite duration.

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