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Israel: Clothing stores & restaurants rebel against lockdown measures

Israel’s fashion, food and retail chains announced they would reopen their stores at the beginning of next week, even in closed malls, violating lockdown measures which only permit opening essential businesses.

A government meeting chaired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to take place later Sunday to discuss the plan to lift the lockdown.

However, according to the current plan, the opening of non-essential shops and malls will not happen before November 15, and the opening of restaurants and cafes will not take place before November 29.

According to an announcement issued Sunday morning by an association, which unites 400 retail chains that operate about 18,000 stores, a Zoom conference call with all the chains will be held on Wednesday on preparations for the immediate opening of the stores, with representatives of the mall managements.

Knesset member Gideon Sa’ar of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud announced his resignation from the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Saturday evening in protest over the claim that the panel was acting as a rubber stamp for government decisions.

Sa’ar sought to reopen businesses with less than ten employees, a proposal which garnered wide support in the committee, but was ultimately rejected for fear that it would lead to lifting restrictions on protests.

In his resignation letter, Sa’ar wrote, “I warned that the coronavirus law would severely damage the principle of parliamentary oversight of the government.” Sa’ar added that “according to the existing law the committee cannot introduce changes in the regulations, it can only approve or reject them. Given that… the committee is barred from introducing changes, even with full consensus among committee members – coalition and opposition as one. I could not support the shuttering of small businesses with up to ten workers at a time when gatherings of up to ten people are allowed. And I won’t be able to support it in the future. As such, I can’t see the point in remaining on the committee.”

The committee is expected to convene Sunday and decide on whether to approve or reject the current lockdown restrictions, which the government approved last Thursday.

UPDATE 2: The Finance Ministry’s director general, Keren Turner Eyal, resigned on Sunday after less than six months in the position. Her departure follows the resignation of the treasury’s budget chief, Shaul Meridor, sending more shockwaves through Israel’s Finance Ministry at a time when the country still does not have a budget for 2020 and is in the midst of a second, nationwide COVID lockdown.

The budget has been a major point of contention in a coalition fraught with tensions, and could lead to the dissolution of the government if not passed by the end of December.

UPDATE 1: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold in the coming hours preliminary talks about possible measures to loosen the lockdown, which will be brought before the cabinet and the coronavirus cabinet for approval on Monday and Tuesday.

The talks are expected to include Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Finance Ministr Yisrael Katz, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu. The Prime Minister’s Office canceled the participation of Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn at the last minute.

Source: TOI and HAARETZ