01-28-2021 CBN News Jerusalem Emily Jones
JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli lawmakers will vote today to increase fines for those who violate the regulations of Israel’s third nationwide lockdown. The measure has been the source of intense government infighting and could sink another government meeting scheduled for Thursday intended to extend the now month-long lockdown set to expire on Jan. 31.
The move to double fines for those who are violating the lockdown rules is vehemently opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox partners – the allies he needs to obtain a government majority and remain Israel’s prime minister following the March 23rd elections.
Many ultra-Orthodox institutions have flouted the lockdown rules, which ban large gatherings and shutter businesses and schools. Critics accuse Netanyahu’s government of having a double standard and allowing ultra-Orthodox communities to continue holding large weddings and operating their institutions throughout the lockdown. Police who have tried to enforce the lockdown rules in ultra-Orthodox areas have recently been met with violent attacks by extremist religious sects.Related
Experts estimate that the ultra-Orthodox, who make up about 12% of Israel’s population, are responsible for 40% of the country’s new cases. Large swaths of the Arab population where infection rates are high also oppose the measure to increase fines.
But Netanyahu’s coalition partner, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, has vowed to block a cabinet meeting Thursday to extend the national lockdown if government ministers don’t first vote to increase fines against violators. He argues there is no point in continuing the lockdown if it is not fairly enforced.
Likud leader Miki Zohar told Army Radio that the legislation for increasing fines for violators will “pass today in its original form.”
“We will work to have it voted on today so that we can immediately begin enforcement [against] all those who do not follow the guidelines,” he said.
If the measure passes, it will pave the way for government leaders to meet Thursday to extend the lockdown. Israel’s Channel 12 reports that the Health Ministry wants another week-long extension, but ministers will only agree to four more days.
The ministry reported some 7,668 new virus cases on Wednesday and a 9.2% positive test rate. The figures appear to confirm a slow downward trend in morbidity, but there are currently 1,132 people in serious condition and 306 on ventilators – numbers that have put a strain on hospital staff.
This week, Israel tightened its lockdown by shuttering its airport to nearly all flights and sealing its land borders with Egypt and Jordan. Leaders did this to prevent new mutations of the virus from running rampant in Israel. If the government votes to extend the lockdown, it will also extend the shutdown of Israel’s airport and border.
Meanwhile, Israel is working to vaccinate about 200,000 people a day. More than 1.5 million people have received both doses and some 2.9 million have received their first.
There have been more than 624,000 coronavirus cases in Israel since the pandemic. An overwhelming majority have recovered. Some 4,600 people have died.
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