Corona lockdown extension at risk as vote on fines bill delayed

Blue and White says, "If there won't be enforcement, there won't be a lockdown."

Police officers enforcing third lockdown on inter-city roads  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Police officers enforcing third lockdown on inter-city roads
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
The bill to increase fines on people who violate coronavirus directives cannot be passed until Monday at the earliest, according to a ruling by Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud).
Just hours after both the Likud Party and Blue and White announced that the bill would finally be approved within the day, Levin said that the plenum would not convene on Thursday and that the law cannot be passed until next week.
On Thursday morning, both coalition chairman Miki Zohar (Likud) and Blue and White announced that the bill would be passed by the end of the day. Both sides blamed the other for holding it up but seemingly had reached an agreement on the wording of the law on Thursday morning.
However, just hours later, Levin said the plenum would not be able to vote on the bill until Monday after Ta'al Party head Ahmed Tibi, informed him that Arab parties opposed the Knesset plenum gathering to pass the fines bill as Arab towns and cities were "suffering from selective and discriminatory enforcement."
"This is our clear statement against this," Tibi said.
"Instead of helping people survive, the government decided to keep robbing," said Joint List MK Ofer Casif in response. "Increasing fines is not a measure against the coronavirus but a political spin from which the weakest will be harmed, and especially the Arab public suffering from racist enforcement. We must not force people to choose between their health and the livelihood of their children. We will continue to support any measure against the plague, not against the public."
Blue and White published a response shortly afterward criticizing Levin for refusing to gather the Knesset plenum immediately to pass the Fines Law.
"If there won't be enforcement, there won't be a lockdown," warned the party.
Levin demanded an apology from Blue and White, saying "I expect [Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny] Gantz and the chairman of the Knesset House Committee, Eitan Ginzburg, to withdraw the announcement and apologize for a statement that is false, incorrect and contrary to the fabric of my powers."
Gantz said Blue and White would not extend the lockdown if the fines bill is not passed, because "if there is no equal enforcement, there is no point in a lockdown."
The sources stated that no offer was made to extend the lockdown by a day to give more time to pass the law and that even if the offer was made, it wouldn't be acceptable.
Due to the circumstances, the only way in which to hold a meeting in due process to approve the law would be to put it on the agenda for Monday at 11 a.m., according to Levin, who added that he would have expected from someone who had served as Knesset speaker, meaning Gantz, to know that parliamentary rules cannot be trampled.
Levin suggested extending the lockdown by one day in the meantime until the law can be passed in the plenum.
After Levin's statements, Blue and White stressed again that "there will be no compromise on the equal enforcement bill."
"Enough with the Likud's attempts to cheat," Blue and White said. "If there is no closure for everyone equally - there will be no closure."
Shortly after the statements by Blue and White and Levin, the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, headed by UTJ MK Yakov Asher, and the Knesset Committee met to discuss the law, but representatives from the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Shas and UTJ parties boycotted both meetings. 
KAN news reported on Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had placed pressure on the haredi parties to agree to the fines bill, saying that the Likud could be harmed in the upcoming elections if the law doesn't pass. The prime minister even began shouting at the haredi MKs at one point, according to the report.

Earlier on Thursday, Asher claimed that Blue and White is using the fight against the coronavirus in a "political war" against Netanyahu and was threatening to not support the coronavirus regulations until the fines law was passed.
"It is unfortunate that there are those who insist on continuing to sanctify politics over the matter-of-fact and professional debate in order to tag the ultra-Orthodox public and tarnish it for a few votes at the ballot box," added Asher. "We will not take part in this shameful show anymore."
Due to the boycott by the haredi MKs, Likud MK Amit Halevi chaired the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee instead of Asher. The committee unanimously approved the bill for a second and third reading.
During the meeting on Thursday afternoon, the House Committee made a unanimous decision that the changes in the wording of the bill made on Wednesday would be considered as "a new subject" and would not be included in the final version of the bill that would be placed before the Knesset plenum.
The committee also approved an exemption allowing the bill to be placed for an early vote.