Israel Enters New Lockdown Amid Protests; Netanyahu Admits Government Made Mistakes Coming Out of First Lockdown

Israel approved a new lockdown to start mid-September, with many of the severe restrictions from April returning. The lockdown is scheduled to last three weeks. The public sector will rely on a limited workforce, while the private sector will be allowed to operate only if customers do not enter the workspace. The lockdown also planned to limit outdoor gatherings to 20 people, and require most people to remain within 500 feet of their homes. Reported by CNN. Read more… The lockdown went into effect on September 18, 2020, but amid confusion because Israeli lawmakers were still arguing over the breadth of the restrictions. Although most proposals went into effect, limitations on prayers and protests did not. Restrictions on prayers and protests require Knesset approval, which had not been obtained yet. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israel’s Health Ministry director-general, Chezy Levy, said on September 27, 2020, that he did not believe Israel would return to its pre-lockdown state after the holidays, noting that Israel is “almost at the point of no return.” He blasted protesters, saying they did not adhere to ministry guidelines restricting gatherings. “I am calling on everyone: Despite the right to protest, you must pull yourselves together,” Levy said. “We built an outline that enables outdoor protests in pods. Did what we saw last night stick to that outline?” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… The day before, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that his government had made mistakes in handling how Israel emerged from its first lockdown. In a video released by his office, Netanyahu said, “Did we make mistakes in the past? Of course. … The opening of event halls was too fast. Maybe the opening of the whole school system.” But he did not accept all the blame for his government; placing some on experts who suggested reopening the economy and the Knesset for overturning some government decisions. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Israel’s coronavirus czar, Ronni Gamzu, asked Israeli’s to forgive him for failing to avoid a general lockdown. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Meanwhile, protests against Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, continued. Thousands participated in the protests as recently as September 26, gathering in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Caesarea. Police arrested five protesters in Jerusalem, where the rally there was one of the most violent in weeks. The protests were held despite the national coronavirus lockdown after the Knesset failed to pass legislation restricting protests and prayers. The protests center on Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and his corruption charges. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In response to the protests, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said the government would finalize legislation banning large demonstrations. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Likud MK Miki Zohar has a different solution, however. He urged lawmakers to immediately disband the current government, blaming Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for the second wave of coronavirus. Zohar accused Gantz of undermining Netanyahu’s pandemic response. “In the first wave, when Netanyahu worked without their [Blue and White’s] distractions, we won big [against coronavirus]; now they are just interfering with us in order to bring us down with them,” Zohar claimed in a Twitter post. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…