Knesset Wins Showdown Over Beaches

Exercising at a gym in Yerushalayim. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90/File)

In a remarkable victory of parliamentary over executive power in Israel on Monday, the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee voted unanimously to keep pools and beaches open on weekends, ending a weeklong showdown with the Cabinet.

A decision on restaurants, which have been ordered shut on Tuesday by the government, and gyms, which have been shuttered, will be made at a later date.

“The decision not to close public pools and beaches is right and justified,” said MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, who heads the coronavirus committee. “The beaches and swimming pools are vital.”

Shasha-Biton, a Likud MK who was threatened with removal from her position for defying her party’s leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏, made good on her vow not to serve as a “rubber stump” for the government’s decisions.

As of Monday’s vote, she was still running the committee. In addition, Likud whip MK Miki Zohar said the coalition was no longer opposed to the measure.

The committee did, however, recognize that economic concerns were not absolute.

Science and Technology Minister Yitzhar Shai (Blue and White) said during the meeting that “according to the health experts, if we reach 750 patients in serious conditions, the health system will collapse. Therefore, any relief we provide [for the economy] must predicated on us not reaching that number.”

“It is important to remember that the number of seriously ill patients has doubled in the last month. Government decisions are intended to reduce the number of these seriously ill patients,” he said.