Knesset plenum
Knesset plenum Olivier Fitoussi/Flash 90

The Knesset approved on Tuesday evening, in the second and third readings, a law that limits the government’s ability to impose pandemic-related restrictions.

The law, which will take effect on February 1, includes the strengthening of the parliamentary oversight, by distinguishing between a "special health condition" that will apply between pandemic waves and an "emergency condition due to the coronavirus", instead of the current law where there is only one emergency condition, and declaring it is a condition for imposing all the restrictions enshrined in the law - from relatively light restrictions such as a purple pass to severe restrictions, such as a lockdown.

In a "special health condition" - the parliamentary supervision will be more similar to what is customary in the supervision of "ordinary" regulations brought by the government – the regulations will be brought before a committee five days before their date of entry into force and will enter into force only if they receive prior parliamentary approval.

In a "state of emergency" - the parliamentary oversight will be similar to what is currently accepted so that regulations issued by the government by law can enter into force even without prior committee approval, and can be approved retrospectively by a committee or in the plenum. However, the period of time given to the committee to discuss the regulations before they enter into force will be extended from 24 to 48 hours.

The bill enshrines for the first time an explicit certification for the installation of regulations regarding the obligation to present a "green pass" at the entrance to places that are open to the public, workplaces, private events, educational institutions, welfare frameworks and more. This certification regulates the government's discretion regarding the green pass and restricts the government in applying a green pass to places that sell or provide essential services or products.

The Knesset Constitution Committee insisted that the possibility that exists today, of presenting a negative test result at the entrance to these places, would not be prevented, alongside the possibility of presenting a certificate indicating a person has been vaccinated or recovered from the virus. This is in contrast to the government proposed bill, which is intended to allow the obligation of a green pass, even without the possibility of presenting a negative test result.

The composition of the Coronavirus Cabinet will be changed to include at least five ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health. The Minister of Finance will be a permanent member of the small ministerial committee that the government may authorize to discuss changes that MKs will make to regulations during a "special health situation".

In addition, the government's authority to declare a "special state of emergency" by virtue of which demonstrations can be restricted will also be abolished, as will the state's obligation to publicly fund isolated or sick residents in a hotel, except in certain cases.

In accordance with the agreements between the coalition and the opposition, the wording of the bill was amended so that MK Simcha Rothman's two reservations were inserted, one of which removed prayers from the list of activities that are prohibited during lockdowns.