Knesset to vote on major coronavirus bill today

New bill would strip Coronavirus Committee of ability to overturn government's coronavirus regulations, removing key check on gov't power.

Tags: Coronavirus
David Rosenberg ,

Knesset plenum
Knesset plenum
Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

The Knesset is slated to vote on the new Coronavirus Law Wednesday, with the bill expected to pass its second and third readings with majority support.

The bill, which alters the procedure for confirming emergency government regulations aimed at curbing the coronavirus, would strip the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee of the ability to overturn emergency regulations, removing a major check on the government’s ability to create new restrictions on public activity.

In recent weeks, the Coronavirus Committee, headed by MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud), has repeatedly overturned government restrictions including bans on onsite dining in restaurants and indoor pools.

The committee has called for greater government transparency in its drafting of restrictions on public activity, and asked the government to provide statistics on infection rates to justify particular restrictions.

While senior Likud officials, including coalition chairman Miki Zohar (Likud) threatened to remove Shasha-Biton from her position as chairwoman of the committee, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz vetoed the plan, which would likely fail without Blue and White’s support.

Unable to remove MK Shasha-Biton from the position, the government is now pushing legislation which would strip the Coronavirus Committee of its ability to overturn government regulations.

The powers to approve or overturn government regulations would instead be divided up amongst four different Knesset committees – the Education Committee, the Economic Committee, the Constitution Committee, and the Welfare Committee.

Each committee will have 14 days to overturn government regulations on activity related to activity under the committee’s oversight.

In addition, if the relevant committee has not ruled on a regulation within seven days of its passage by the government, the Knesset Speaker – currently Netanyahu loyalist Yariv Levin (Likud) – will be empowered to remove the bill from the committee’s consideration and bring it to a vote in the full Knesset plenum.

Furthermore, the bill expands the ability of the government to maintain temporary regulations without Knesset approval.

Previously, every regulation passed by the government needed approval from the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee before it could take effect.

Earlier this month, however, the Knesset voted to empower the government to pass regulations which would be temporarily in effect, for up to a week, without approval from the committee.

Now, under the new Coronavirus Law, regulations passed by the government will go into effect 24 hours after their passage and can remain in effect for up to 28 days without approval from the Knesset.

If passed, the law would go into effect on August 10th, and remain in force until June 30th 2021.



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