Head of Knesset corona committee to be fired

Likud MK Yifat Shasha-Biton to be removed as chair of the coronavirus committee after voting against a government order to keep gyms closed.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Likud Knesset member Yifat Shasha-Biton got herself into hot water Monday after defying party policy and voting to reopen gyms during the coronavirus crisis, Ynet reported.

Shasha-Biton is the chairperson of the Knesset coronavirus committee, and although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced earlier that swimming pools would be reopening but not gyms, she voted with opposition members to allow both to reopen.

A senior Likud official said Shasha-Biton will be suspended from her position heading the committee due to her “capitulation to lobbyists,” the report said.

Shasha-Biton had blocked holding a vote on the issue on Sunday after a call from Netanyahu but flipped and defied her party leader by voting in favor of reopening both.

With Israel’s corona infection rate skyrocketing in a second wave of the pandemic, the cabinet last week decided to close not just bars, but also public swimming pools and private gyms to try and slow the spread. However, pools and gyms at hotels were allowed to stay open and angry private business owners cried foul.

On Sunday the committee was shown evidence that less than two percent of all coronavirus infections had been traced to swimming pools or gyms. The Sunday vote on the issue was delayed after Netanyahu intervened personally.

After reportedly meeting with the prime minister Monday morning on the issue and told to keep gyms closed, Shasha-Biton returned to the committee to hold the vote.

“At the end of the discussions, I made the balanced decision for the public. A decision that both maintains public health and, on the other hand, fulfills the obligation to ensure continuous economic activity as far as possible,” Shasha-Biton tweeted. “Regarding the gyms, there is no evidence that they are the focus of an outbreak.”

“Dismissing a committee chair is never good, even if she made a different decision than they thought she should,” tweeted Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel.