Knesset passes ‘COVID law,’ ending state of emergency in place for most of pandemic

The plenum hall of the Israeli parliament on the opening of the 22nd Knesset, Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on October 03, 2019. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** פתיחת הכנסת מליאה

Assessment: Law allows for more supervision by MKs over decisions, requires government to differentiate between emergency and ‘special health situation’ when placing restrictions …

The new law will go into effect on February 1 and last until the end of 2022.

“I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent.” Isaiah 62:6

If the cabinet wants to impose coronavirus-related restrictions during that period, it will have to classify the circumstance as one of two options: a state of emergency or a less severe, “special health situation.” The government will be allowed to impose restrictions in either case, but more serious rules will only be allowed in a state of emergency. The Knesset will ultimately have to sign off on decisions made in either designation.

The coronavirus law passed by the previous government in July 2020 did not require such differentiation and was criticized for giving the cabinet too much leeway to institute sweeping lockdowns and restrictions that limited freedom of movement. Some of that criticism was voiced again on Tuesday, with opposition lawmakers arguing that the coalition had passed legislation all too similar to the law its members vehemently opposed less than two years ago when the roles in the Knesset were switched.

Under the new law, the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee or the entire plenum must approve either of the two national health conditions within seven days. If neither does so, the validity of the government’s declaration expires.

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