ההכנות אמש לפתיחת מושב החורף של הכנסת
Preparing for the reopening of the Knesset under coronavirus guidelines
Photo: The Knesset
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session

PM praises virus lockdown, promises more financial aid to citizens

Netanyahu says Israel 'would have been marching right into an abyss' without stringent measures, noting recent decline in coronavirus infections nationwide and promises economy will reopen 'in a safe, careful and gradual manner'

Moran Azulay |
Published: 10.12.20 , 18:46
Speaking at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday praised the strict lockdown, which led to a drastic decline in coronavirus infections nationwide, and promised more grants and loans to citizens affected by the subsequent financial crisis.
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  • "The lockdown measures that we take against the second wave of coronavirus save lives," Netanyahu said. "Recent day's data point to a clear downward trend in morbidity. It is encouraging, it gives hope, but it is still too early to pat ourselves on our back. We still have to examine this week's data, the week after the [High Holidays], but we are undoubtedly on the right path, the path of responsibility and caution; a path of making sure to wear masks and keep your distance, a path we will continue walking down on."
    רה"מ נתניהו בפתיחת מושב החורף של הכנסתרה"מ נתניהו בפתיחת מושב החורף של הכנסת
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session
    (Photo: Knesset)
    "Making the decision on the lockdown wasn't easy. There were those who thought that there was no need for lockdown, that it was possible to continue with thousands of infections a day without lockdown. These days, most of the public see that this decision that I led with my associates to impose a lockdown was correct. Without it, we would have been marching right into an abyss."
    Despite the criticism, despite the mobilized and mobilizing media, despite pressure from within and outside the government – I insist we safeguard the health of the Israeli citizens and that we will open the economy only in a safe, careful and gradual manner."
    "I know that lockdown is not an easy thing. It makes it difficult for the citizens, for the businesses, for the parents, for the children, for the elderly. We are with you all the time, the people of Israel, and we will keep helping you with more programs, more grants and more loans."
    Amid a recent uptick in coronavirus infections among the ultra-Orthodox community, the premier urged the sector's lawmakers to promote higher observance of health regulations among their constituents.
    "The world of the Torah is dear to my heart… our Torah is a philosophy of life – it sanctifies life. Tell your communities - observe the rules, save lives."
    ראובן ריבלין בפתיחת מושב החורף של הכנסתראובן ריבלין בפתיחת מושב החורף של הכנסת
    President Reuven Rivlin speaking at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session
    (Photo: Knesset)
    Earlier, President Reuven Rivlin called on the government to pass a state budget for the coming year and appoint a new police chief posthaste.
    Police have been without a permanent commissioner since the departure of former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh in December 2018.
    Israel's lawmakers returned to the Knesset in Jerusalem for the start of the winter session, with battle lines already being drawn over the state budget and the ever-present threat of another round of elections.
    To mark the event, which was being held under the current coronavirus mitigation restrictions, a special stage was built for speakers, in order to uphold social distancing between speech-makers, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin and President Reuven Rivlin.
    ההכנות אמש לפתיחת מושב החורף של הכנסתההכנות אמש לפתיחת מושב החורף של הכנסת
    Preparing for the reopening of the Knesset under coronavirus guidelines
    (Photo: The Knesset)
    In addition, Knesset staff also set out prominent markings on the floor of the plenum to ensure that the MKs observe the directives.
    Over the last few days, warring coalition partners Likud and Blue & White have revived their row over the most pressing issue facing the government - the urgent need to approve the state budget for 2020 and 2021.
    While Blue & White insists on approving both state budgets at once, given the tight deadline and the fact that 2020 is close to ending, Likud is demanding two separate votes – one for each year.
    Political pundits believe that Likud is refusing to unite the votes in order to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his party two opportunities – in December, when the 2020 budget has to be passed and again in March, when the 2021 budget must be passed - to dissolve the Knesset and instigate fresh elections, which occurs when the government cannot get its state budget approved.
    Under the terms of the coalition agreement signed by the two parties in April, any move to call fresh elections in any other way would lead to Blue & White leader Benny Gantz taking over as prime minister until the nationwide vote was held.
    A single Knesset vote to approve both annual budgets, which would also ensure the stability of the political system, has been rejected by the Likud and both sides are now digging in.
    בני גנץ בני גנץ
    Blue & White leader Defense Minister Benny Gantz
    (Photo: Avi Moalem)
    "Up to this moment we have done everything we can to enable this government to function and put the good of the state above all else," Gantz told the Blue & White Knesset faction on Monday.
    "We have ignored those who have called us traitors, we have ignored those who have called us weak. This chapter is over and done with, we will no longer keep quiet. There will be no more silence as harm befalls the entire public that has voted for us," he said.
    Opposition Leader Yair Lapid told his Yesh Atid party's Knesset faction that he would put forward a constructive vote of no confidence (which would target the prime minister alone and thereby preserve the government) as soon as the Knesset winter session opened.
    יאיר לפידיאיר לפיד
    Opposition Leader Yair Lapid
    (Photo: AFP)
    "Anyone who does not vote for this proposal is a coward," Lapid said. "I am sorry, but I have no softer word. This government is not capable of leading the crisis. This prime minister has failed to manage the crisis.
    "Blue & White members know that this government has failed," he said.
    "This is not a political statement. The morbidity proves it. Unemployment proves it. The resignations of all the senior Treasury officials [prove it]. The public has no confidence in the government. There is no chance that this government will protect our health and the economy properly. [Blue & White leaders Benny] Gantz and [Gabi] Ashkenazi are saying it aloud. [Yamina leader Naftali] Bennett says it aloud. [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman] says it aloud."
    Lapid added: "One vote, in two hours, and tonight Netanyahu would no longer be prime minister. No elections, no mess. [Blue & White's] Gantz would remain defense minister, Gabi Ashkenazi will would remain foreign minister, [Avi] Nissenkorn would remain justice minister. [Liberman] and Bennett would be senior ministers.
    "Is there anyone who doubts that such a government could better handle the coronavirus? We will pass a budget. We will lift the closure. There will be immediate compensation for businesses. We will return to the traffic light plan" of designating communities by the level of infection there.
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