Blue and White Won’t Back Removal of Likud Committee Head

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Knesset Coronavirus Committee chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton will pay a price for defying her Likud party leadership by deciding to re-open swimming pools and gyms on Monday.

Coalition whip MK Miki Zohar (Likud) told Army Radio that Shasha-Biton will not be merely suspended, “It will be a removal,” he said.

The axe fell on Shasha-Biton even before the committee voted. According to Channel 12, Zohar approached her and whispered in the MK’s ear, “You are finished in the Likud party. You [will be] ousted as committee chairwoman. Have a nice life.”

The government has been trying to keep the venues closed to keep infection rates down, but on Sunday the committee warned that unless the Health Ministry produced data to justify the closures, it would allow re-opening.

Initially, the Blue and White party said it would not interfere with an internal Likud disciplinary matter. Later in the day, however, released a statement saying:

“In light of the importance of the Knesset’s role as a supervisory body, it is not appropriate to remove the chairwoman of the Coronavirus Committee, Yifat Shasha-Biton. If the Likud puts forth a vote on the issue – we will not take part in it.”

Whether Blue and White members actively oppose the move, or will abstain from voting on it when it comes before the Knesset’s House Committee on Tuesday was not known.

The Likud in a statement accused Biton of unprofessional considerations.

“Unfortunately, Yifat Shasha-Biton surrendered to pressure from lobbyists representing the gyms, which is why she did not even agree to shut them down for 24 hours,” the Likud said. “All of the Health Ministry’s experts warned that gyms pose a substantial danger of contracting the virus, as it spreads through sweat as well, making masks ineffective.”

In her defense, Biton wrote on Twitter: “The Knesset Coronavirus Committee held lengthy, in-depth discussions [on the matter], during which various experts came to voice their professional opinion. At the end of the discussions, I made a balanced decision that both protects public health on one hand and realizes the necessity of a continuous economic activity.”

The committee was “presented conclusive data showing no infections in public pools. There also is no evidence of gyms being hotspots for outbreaks,” she asserted, adding that the “clear and strict Purple Ribbon [regulations] will prevent infections.”