Israeli government’s push for curfews braked by public outrage

Confusion and growing anger have met the government’s corona policy flip-flips as infections surge upward.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Following a stormy session, the special Knesset committee for the corona pandemic voted Tuesday to allow restaurants to remain open, apparently ending several days of the government flip-flopping on health policy.

“Despite the [government] coalition chairman’s attempts to close the restaurants … we voted to keep the restaurants open according to the purple tag,” tweeted Mickey Levy, Knesset member for the opposition party Yesh Atid, referring to the “purple tag” found on businesses, which give them the Health Ministry’s seal of approval to remain open.

“I hope that during the coming week the government will come up with an outline that can regulate the seating” inside and outside restaurants, said corona committee chairwoman Yifat Shasha-Biton of the Likud Party.

Last week, Shasha-Biton invoked the wrath of her own party by rejecting a government decision on the closure of gyms. It was the most dramatic in a series of arguments within the government regarding corona policy.

Likud Party colleague and coalition chairman Miki Zohar blasted Shasha-Biton for not closing the restaurants, saying the decision would bring Israel closer to a total lockdown within a month.

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As government members argue among themselves, the pandemic continues unabated with 1,844 new infections in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of known active patients to 29,883, the Health Ministry reported on Tuesday.

Of those currently infected, 670 are hospitalized and 260 of them are listed in serious condition. Three more Israelis succumbed to the virus overnight, bringing the death toll to 422.

Last Thursday night, the government announced a series of significant restrictions as part of the fight against the second wave of infections that is currently running unchecked in Israel.

Those measures include barring sit-down meals at restaurants and allowing only takeout orders. Beaches were ordered closed on weekends and gatherings were restricted to 10 people indoors and 20 people outdoors.

However, after pushback, beaches will be allowed to remain open.

The fate of restaurants was up in the air until Tuesday’s decision, with restaurant owners threatening to ignore the rules.

They slammed the government for a last-minute decision just before the weekend rush. Some restaurants told their workers to go home and donated their food supplies, but many others threatened to simply ignore the edict.

Feeling the heat, the government capitulated on Friday just before the curfew was to go into effect, rescinding the order in the face of the “restaurant rebellion.”

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That reversal was welcomed by most restaurateurs but invoked even more anger from those who had already moved to comply and closed earlier on Friday. The order for a transition to “take-out only” was pushed until Tuesday. That decision has now been overturned.

Public anger and confusion is growing over the constantly changing regulations affecting businesses, schools and leisure activities at the height of the summer. Along with other decisions the government has backtracked on is one closing school summer programs.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party slammed the government’s inability to manage the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

“I would not let them run a falafel stand, certainly not a state,” tweeted Lapid. “What disrespect to the owners and employees of the restaurants, to the livelihoods of people. What a lack of understanding and mayhem,” he said, repeating his mantra that the Netanyahu-led coalition is “disconnected, we’re fed up with you.”