PM to fire chair of Knesset corona committee over pushback on gov't policy

Gantz: I am working to prevent the dismissal of Shasha Biton and I hope we avoid this step.

Knesset Coronavirus Committee Chair MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud) (photo credit: ADINA WALLMAN/KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN)
Knesset Coronavirus Committee Chair MK Yifat Shasha-Biton (Likud)
(photo credit: ADINA WALLMAN/KNESSET SPOKESWOMAN)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to fire Likud MK Yifat Shasha Biton from her position as chair of the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee after she stated on Saturday night that she would oppose the closure of gyms unless infection data was presented to the committee.
According to a statement put out by the prime minister’s spokesman, a “senior source in the Likud” said that “the prime minister will fire Yifat Shasha Biton from her position. It is impossible to continue working like this.”
Shasha Biton first came to blows with Netanyahu and the government last week after she and the Knesset Coronavirus Committee voted on Tuesday to overturn a decision by the cabinet and reopen gyms and public pools.
She was threatened with dismissal as a result of her actions, but a political outcry led Netanyahu and his allies to back down.
On Saturday night, during an interview on Channel 12’s Meet the Press show, Shasha Biton said that she would require statistics on the number of infections in gyms and pools, as well as for the other businesses and institutions the government said it wishes to shutter on Thursday night as part of its efforts to reduce the large number of COVID-19 cases the country has seen in the last two weeks.
“Tomorrow we will discuss the restrictions, we will demand statistics… we need to understand what the economic damage is compared with the health advantage of each step,” she said.
“At the moment there are new statistics. The explanations in the government resolution they state there are no new statistics, and they have to explain to us why, despite the lack of new statistics, they are again demanding to close gyms and pools. We will listen to all the professionals and make a decision.”
Netanyahu and the Likud will likely need the support of Blue and White to fire Shasha Biton, not least because the Knesset committee responsible for such dismissals is the Knesset House Committee, chaired by Blue and White MK Eitan Ginzburg.
During a meeting of the Blue and White party Saturday night, Gantz said he was “working to prevent the dismissal of Shasha Biton and I hope we avoid this step."
“I think it is right that the coronavirus committee accept the decisions of the government regarding coronavirus, but together with that we are obligated to respect its [the committee’s] role in the Knesset,” said Gantz.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman condemned the threat to fire Shasha Biton, saying “Mr. Prime Minister, perhaps you have forgotten but the job of the Knesset is to carry out oversight over the work of the government and not to be a rubber stamp.
Likud MK and Netanyahu rival Gideon Sa’ar also criticized the threat to dismiss Shasha Biton as “unnecessary,” saying that “There is an important and principled argument wither infection rate statistics justify increasing the damage to the economy and [people’s] livelihoods. This argument will not be decided by threats. The government operates through power of the trust of the Knesset, and not the opposite.”
Shasha Biton said herself in response to the threat to dismiss her, which she learned of through the media, that a central part of Knesset work was to carry out oversight over the work of the government and that mistakes should be corrected if necessary.
“My job is to examine the best way possible to fight the disease, protect the physical and psychological health of the citizens,and save the livelihoods of thousands of employees… If I will be forced to a personal price for this I will accept it with love.”
MK Moshe Ya’alon of Yesh Atid-Telem issued an acerbic tweet saying “The bureaucracy stops him from functioning, the Knesset stops him from managing, the courts stop him from living, the law stops him from ruling, democracy stops him on the way to dictatorship – the facts don’t stop him from lying. The most important thing is that Gantz and [Blue and White MK and Foreign Minister Gabi] Ashkenazi are under the canopy [of government]. Bearers of a canopy of disgrace. Netanyahu, resign, we will fix things.”