The Knesset on Sunday passed into law a bill that doubles the fine for violations of novel coronavirus regulations from NIS 5,000 to NIS 10,000. The vote was 40-18.
The rare Sunday meeting was called to preempt the end of the lockdown, which had only been passed through Sunday night.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz had refused to vote for continuing the lockdown until the bill doubling the fines passed.
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) accused Gantz of behaving irresponsibly, “driving everyone crazy” and “holding the country hostage” for political reasons.
“Your ultimatum grabbed Israeli citizens and the Knesset by the throat,” he said. “You failed to show respect to the Knesset and its stature.”
In response, Gantz said the Likud had behaved irresponsibly, and he was right to insist on the law treating all citizens equally. He told Levin that incidents of mass violations of restrictions on gathering with no fines, as happened at Sunday’s funeral of Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik, would cease once the bill became law.
After the vote passed, Blue and White claimed victory for the citizens of Israel.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud), who initiated the bill, told the Knesset it was not intended for haredim (ultra-Orthodox), Arabs or any other sector.
Arab MKs voted against the bill. Ta’al leader Ahmad Tibi said enforcement of COVID-19 regulations has been racist. Eighteen of the 20 local authorities with the most fines are Arab, he said.
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said he voted in favor, despite the apparent racism against Arabs, to protest what he called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being trampled by the haredim.
Haredi MKs from Shas and United Torah Judaism boycotted the vote.