Edelstein Greenlights Knesset Oversight of Coronavirus

Speaker of the Israeli parliament Yuli Edelstein. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein gave way to Blue and White party demands for the establishment of committees to oversee the government’s handling of the coronavirus emergency, The Times of Israel reported.

The opposition party on Tuesday sent a letter to Edelstein asking him to approve a plenary vote on Wednesday to form the Arrangements Committee, which in turn, would staff the parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Finance Committee, and create a special panel on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The missive was sent as yet a new impasse arose with Likud over the number of MKs to be allowed to attend committee sessions. Likud insisted on no more than 10 at a time, in compliance with Health Ministry restrictions, at which Blue and White balked. But behind the bickering over procedure was maneuvering around whether the latter would exercise its 62-48 majority, as Likud was insisting on 50-50 representation in the 10-member sessions.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz earlier on Tuesday called the Likud demand for restricted Knesset committees “a dangerous precedent for democracy.”

“Likud, via Netanyahu and MK Edelstein, are trying at any cost to prevent the Knesset from working,” said Gantz. “It isn’t enough that the Knesset hasn’t been functioning for an entire year, now they also want the new Knesset to not do the minimum amount of work that is necessary in a crisis.”

Likud retorted that Gantz was engaging in petty politics during a national crisis.

The cabinet decision on Tuesday to employ digital tracking previously used only in counter-terror operations, was said to be one of the reasons for the demand for immediate Knesset oversight.

MK Yair Lapid said “the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee [is needed to] ensure that you aren’t being monitored illegally.”

Also, the government was accused of failing to supply medical workers with protective equipment. The government said it was responding to the shortage.