Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday informed the government that swimming pools will be allowed to reopen, while gyms must remain closed, even as the Likud-led Knesset committee responsible for these decisions voted to resume activity in both.
While the committee decision appears to put an end to a row between its members, who are responsible for Israel's coronavirus mitigation measures, it does place the parliamentary panel at loggerheads with the prime minister.
Committee chair Yifat Shasha-Biton of Likud had refused to hold a vote on the issue on Sunday, apparently following a call from Netanyahu. But on Monday she appeared to resist pressure from her party leader and voted in favor of reopening both.
The cabinet last week voted to shut down all gyms and public pools as well as bars due to a rapid surge of COVID-19, but swimming pools at hotels and fitness studios, however, were allowed to stay open, prompting claims from business owners of arbitrary closures.
The Knesset's Coronavirus Committee convened on Sunday to discuss the decision to reopen all public pools and gyms after an appeal by opposition factions in the parliament, who presented a research, which shows that less than 2% of all coronavirus infections so far were contracted in either swimming pools or gyms.
The vote was set to take place on Sunday evening but was adjourned until Monday after the chairwoman apparently received a phone call from the prime minister himself.
When the MKs arrived at the Knesset for Monday's vote at 13pm, they discovered the chairwoman of the committee was not present after apparently being summoned by the prime minister. She rejoined the vote, however, and voted with the opposition to overturn last week's ban.
Only hours earlier, a senior government official warned Shasha-Biton that if she "does not align herself with government decisions", she will be replaced.
Minutes after the committee's vote, Likud MK and Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar demanded that the Knesset committee convenes to oust Shasha-Biton from her position.
"We'll banish you," Zohar told her as she left the vote. "Your story with the committee is over."