After the Knesset approved the first reading of a bill to raise fines for those violating coronavirus restrictions, Blue & White chairman Benny Gantz told his Likud coalition partners that if the legislation is not tabled for its final vote, his party will not support a measure to extended the lockdown by a week.
The nation-wide closure Israel entered on Dec. 27 is set to end on Jan. 31, pending Knesset approval.
"I will not allow the issue of the lockdown regulations to be debated until the fines' outline is fully passed," said Gantz.
This means that if by Tuesday evening the fines' hike is not passed into law, there will not be a Knesset majority to approve the extension of the lockdown, essentially ending it on midnight Thursday.
"I will not let the prime minister use delay tactics that the Israeli public will end up paying for in human lives. If there is no equal enforcement of health regulations, there will be no lockdown," Gantz said in the Knesset after the vote.
On Sunday, ultra-Orthodox rioters in predominately Haredi Bnei Brak, clashed with police until the late-night hours, over efforts to enforce school closures and other coronavirus restrictions. Some of the demonstrators set a public bus on fire as the driver narrowly escaped injury. Several police officers were injured and dozens of rioters arrested.
The riots came after days of clashes between police and Haredi demonstrators in other ultra-Orthodox communities around the country where schools operated in violation of lockdown restrictions and wedding celebrations were carried out with hundreds of participants.
Netanyahu came under fire for his delayed condemnation of the violence said on Monday that he would like the bill to be rushed through committee and return to the plenum for a final vote.
Israel is reeling from extensive morbidity with hospitals experiencing a surge in serious illness and record-breaking numbers of patients on ventilators.
On Sunday, the country saw the highest daily count of fatalities as a result of COVID-19 complications after 68 people died.
The Health Ministry said late on Monday that after 6,012 new cases that were confirmed since midnight out of 71,333 tests conducted, the positivity rate stands on 10.1%.
After 23 more people succumbed to the virus, Israel recorded 4,478 dead from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Gantz's statement came following reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodox allies - those who stand to be the most affected by the measure - have reached an agreement to strike down the bill and introduce a more toned-down version.
Violations in the ultra-Orthodox community have turned violent after police attempting to shut down schools operating in violation of mitigation directives met with resistance.
The outline of the proposed legislation was submitted to the government by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, and was already approved by ministers several weeks ago, but was halted from being put to a vote in the Knesset by pressure by Haredi lawmakers on the prime minister.
First published: 20:46 , 01.25.21