Snowed-in Knesset puts votes on ice

"It's still dangerous to get through the main roads to Jerusalem," Edelstein says; Herzog calls for parliamentary inquiry on snow response.

Knesset in the snow 370 (photo credit: Knesset Spokesman's Office)
Knesset in the snow 370
(photo credit: Knesset Spokesman's Office)
As ice covered the roads to the Knesset, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein froze legislative activity on Monday, while the opposition called for a parliamentary inquiry commission to examine the government’s failings in dealing with last weekend’s snowstorm.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog brought the proposed parliamentary inquiry to a vote of opposition party and faction leaders, who plan to submit it to a vote in the plenum.
“We are full of appreciation for those who work day and night to help those who need it. At the same time, the Knesset’s job is to examine and supervise the executive branch. Therefore, we demand that the system’s functionality during the storm and its results be investigated,” Herzog explained.
Herzog’s announcement came a day after MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), who he recently defeated in their party’s leadership race, said the government responded “reasonably” and that it couldn’t have been prepared for a storm of a magnitude that is reached once in a century.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said that the government responded well.
“One lesson for all of us: At the end of the day there is no replacement for solidarity and taking personal responsibility for others,” Bennett said at a faction meeting.
“The government will always be limited in resources and [its] ability to act. Even if we invest another billion shekels, we won’t be able to reach the most extreme cases.”
Bennett said he was happy to see people helping their neighbors.
“‘All of Israel is responsible for one another’ is the rule that should guide us beyond the expectation from the government to act, which it did,” he said.
Edelstein made Monday’s plenum meeting earlier and cut it down to only two hours because of continued difficulties in reaching Jerusalem due to the weekend’s snowstorm.
Opposition factions pulled their no-confidence votes, turning them into motions to the agenda, and all votes on bills planned for Monday were postponed.
“It’s still difficult and dangerous to get through the main roads to Jerusalem, and the Knesset must act according to the current situation,” Edelstein said.
“The Knesset’s work does not only rely on its 120 members, but also on hundreds of staff members, faction workers and parliamentary aides, and we must think of them in light of the dangers on the roads and the fact that schools are still closed.”
All nonessential Knesset staff were sent home at 3 p.m., when the plenum meeting began.
Earlier, the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee and the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women canceled their meetings.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman also canceled a press briefing Monday.
Knesset committee meetings will begin at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, two hours later than usual.
Still suffering from the aftermath of the powerful storm, approximately 5,500 households still lacked electricity on Monday night, of which about 2,500 were in Jerusalem, the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) said.
Five communities in particular still lacking electricity by Monday night were Givat Assaf, Ein Rafa, Shoeva, Shiloh and Pnei Kedem.
Early on Monday, when 8,000 households were still disconnected, IEC CEO Eli Glickman had vowed that “today all of the towns of Israel will be connected to the power grid.”
Hundreds of IEC workers would continue to work for the fourth consecutive night in hopes of accomplishing this goal, the company said.
The IEC continued to warn residents to take care when walking, as melting snows may unveil torn electricity wires, which can be life threatening.
Those who encounter such wires should continue to call the IEC at *103 or the Israel Police at *100 immediately, the company said.
Despite brightenin g weather conditions, many roads around the country were still partially closed on Monday morning due to flooding or snow and ice buildups. By nightfall, Israel Police requested that residents refrain from driving in Jerusalem due to life-threatening risks of slipping on the icy roads.
Road 8900 in the North was closed in both directions, and the Road 234 Tse’elim Bridge was shut down due to flooding of Nahal Habesor, as of the evening.
Although intercity services to and from Jerusalem generally operated at their usual frequency on Monday morning, these buses all began and ended their routes only at Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station, the Egged bus company said.
Lines to Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea, which had faced flooding challenges on Sunday, ran as usual.
However, lines to and from the Gush Etzion and Samaria settlements as well as lines 982 to Safed did not operate.
Urban bus services within Jerusalem began only at around 10 a.m.
on Monday., with many lines operating in rerouted and limited fashions.
Bus transportation to and from Jerusalem ceased at 9 p.m., except for the 480 line to Tel Aviv, which stopped running at 11 p.m., Egged said. Meanwhile, urban buses within Jerusalem ended their service for the day at 8 p.m.
The Safed Municipality announced Monday that schools will remain closed Tuesday due to the damages – toppled trees, loose power lines and fallen canopies left behind by the snowstorm at several educational institutions.
The Hebrew University in Jerusalem announced that classes would resume Tuesday at 10 a.m. but instructed students to check for any updates Tuesday early morning prior to arriving on campus.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Municipality announced that only some schools would reopen on Tuesday and instructed parents to check the Jerusalem Municipality website or to call the city hall *106 hotline to find out which schools would admit students on Tuesday.