A senior United Torah Judaism lawmaker on Monday warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lift restrictions from some ultra-Orthodox communities after a reduction in morbidity was recorded or be in violation of the coronavirus law and the government's "traffic light" program.
The law, which passed in the Knesset last July, states the government can set restrictions to contain the coronavirus outbreak, while the cabinet's plan designates areas by color according to localized rates of infection, with red zones having the highest morbidity and green the lowest.
MK Yaakov Asher, who also heads the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, told the prime minister that areas that are no longer red zones must be released from lockdown restrictions.
Asher's demand came after Netanyahu said that he would leave restrictions in place in some Haredi cities, even when numbers of COVID-19 cases seemed to be trending down. Israel began Sunday to gradually lift a nationwide lockdown triggered by soaring virus infection rates.
"Two of the five 'red' cities are beginning to show better results, but we will leave them under restrictions in accordance with medical guidance," Netanyahu said during a visit to Haifa's Rambam Healthcare Campus.
"We can do this together," he said, as he called on ultra-Orthodox Israelis to adhere to health regulations.
The prime minister has been criticized for favoring his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners' demands over the recommendations of health officials, thereby causing an increase in the spread of coronavirus as mitigation efforts were often ignored.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid said Netanyahu's capitulation to ultra-Orthodox demands were because he needed them to ensure his political survival.
"This is outrageous, and Israel cannot afford this kind of behavior," Lapid said on Monday, suggesting heads of Haredi educational institutions operating in violation of lockdown measures should be fined more substantially.
Asher told Netanyahu that once restrictions were lifted, local authorities and the Haredi public would be more inclined to cooperate with the government in the fight against the virus.
The ultra-Orthodox sector has been increasingly critical of restrictions that prevented synagogues from being opened and religious study from taking place.
Residents in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak on Sunday expressed outrage at what they said was the government singling them out, while other cities saw some restrictions lifted.
Some residents announced they would be joining the anti-Netanyahu protest movements, saying they had supported the prime minister loyally for years but felt he was no longer looking out for their interests.
Netanyahu has been supported by the ultra-Orthodox political parties that have given him the majority he needed to form his coalitions since 2009.