The government is convening Sunday morning to make a final decision about whether Israel will go into lockdown over the High Holy Days.”I will not allow the program to be negotiated,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein stressed at the start of the meeting. “I say clearly at the beginning of this discussion: if the plan is not accepted, I will withdraw it and not bring alternative plans. “The coronavirus is neither a political or populist matter, it is a matter of life and death,” he continued. “I suggest to anyone who claims otherwise, to tour coronavirus wards and see the situation for themselves.”He added that if the plan is withdrawn, then by next Tuesday there will be no public restrictions, the price of which would be several thousand dead.”I will not give into pressure just to please such and such people,” he stressed.A fight broke out between the director-generals of the Health and Finance ministries as the meeting prepared to commence, N12 reported, over whether to allow businesses to stay open or not. According to the plan, they are supposed to be shuttered – except for essential services – for the first two weeks of the closure. Edelstein’s words came after ministers from across the spectrum made their voices heard – which indicates that there is little consensus about the plan passed last Thursday by the coronavirus cabinet. cnxps.cmd.push(function () { cnxps({ playerId: ’36af7c51-0caf-4741-9824-2c941fc6c17b’ }).render(‘4c4d856e0e6f4e3d808bbc1715e132f6’); });Earlier in the day, Housing and Construction Minister Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) announced he is resigning from the coalition, writing in his resignation letter that he believed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intended from the start to have a full lockdown during the holidays out of a lack of appreciation for religious observance in comparison to other issues that are not being harmed in the fight against coronavirus.”My heart is with the thousands of Jews who come to synagogue once a year and this year won’t come at all due to the lockdown,” Litzman wrote. “I warned against a lockdown during the holidays in every possible forum and emphasized that if there is a need for a full lockdown, it should not wait for a rise of infection to get to this pace.”He said a closure should have been carried out a month ago and not during the High Holy Days. He added that when he made his original plea to coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the commissioner denied that this was his intention. Litzman said that in retrospect he was proven correct.”That is why I cannot continue to serve as a minister and I decided to resign from the government and return to the Knesset,” he concluded.Via the Norwegian Law, Litzman quit the Knesset and was replaced by the next candidate on the UTJ list, Eliyahu Baruchi, who will automatically leave the Knesset when Litzman’s resignation letter becomes official. Netanyahu responded that he respects Litzman and his decision.”We have to move forward and make the necessary decisions needed for Israel during the coronavirus era, and that is what we will do at this meeting,” he told ministers at the start of the cabinet meeting.The resignation would take effect in 48 hours.Litzman is not the only minister who has spoken out against the closure. Others, such as Science & Technology Minister Izhar Shay (Blue and White) and Economy Minister Amir Peretz (Labor), say the harm to the Israeli economy will be too severe for the country to recover. 

But Edelstein has said that “I have signed the proposal that will be submitted to the government… and I say unequivocally – there will be no negotiations.”

The decision must be made before 11 p.m. on Sunday to enable Netanyahu to leave for the United States, where he is expected to sign two peace agreements, one with the United Arab Emirates and the other with Bahrain. If enacted, the closure would begin at 6 a.m. on Friday, September 18: Rosh Hashanah begins that evening.The vote will take place against the backdrop of another day of high infection: Some 2,715 people tested positive on Saturday. Israel reached a record high number of patients in serious condition with 513 patients, 139 of whom are intubated. The death toll stands at 1,108.

Furthermore, the number of serious patients is increasing which puts the country’s hospitals at risk, a report by the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center. 

“The hospitals’ safety net has been significantly reduced, which creates a danger to the stability of the healthcare system,” the report sad. 

The total number of serious patients in the hospitals has increased by 51 in the last two weeks.

The report further indicated that the average number of new patients per day has jumped to 2,651 and that the number of infected people is doubling every week.

There are a growing number of patients between the ages of 40 and 50, the report showed. Still, 12% of sick people are over the age of 60 this wave, as opposed to 17% in the last wave. “I do not want to use the word collapsing,” Dr. Michael (Miki) Halberthal, the head of Rambam Medical Center said at the cabinet meeting, according to The Jerusalem Post’s sister paper, Maariv, “but the situation requires immediate closure.”But just like the ministers, the heads of hospitals cannot agree either.”The solution is not to lock down tomorrow,” the head of Jeruslem’s Shaare Zedek hospital told the cabinet. The head of Sheba Medical Center said that his hospital is not close to breaking down. And the head of Rabin Medical Center also contradicted the Rambam head: “The trend has indeed changed since mid-August but this is not a collapse of the hospital system. There is unnecessary anxiety. A full closure is not required.”Coronavirus: What will proposed closure look like? View expected regulations >>

Litzman told Netanyahu earlier on Sunday that if the government decides to enact a closure over the holidays to prevent the spread of coronavirus, then his party would leave the coalition.

He first made the comments earlier this month in an interview with Hamodia, a newspaper of the Agudath Israel movement that he heads. 

“The approval of mass demonstrations on Balfour along with the opening of cultural centers, while placing continued restrictions on synagogues and preventing travel to Uman, destroyed [the haredi] public’s confidence in the system,” Litzman said. 


In contrast, Interior Minister Arye Deri (Shas) called on his followers to keep whatever directives are handed down by the government.

Speaking during a weekly class of Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef, he said that not keeping Health Ministry directives is “murder.”

“We are dealing with life here… God will help us, if we keep [the directives]. It is not a joke,” he said.

Deri told stories of great rabbis who died from the virus and condemned those people who have said that coronavirus is not real. He promised his constituency that the government would do what it could to keep synagogues open – but not in their usual format.  Still, he told them that this year they would have to make due.

“There is no choice,” he continued. “We must close.”Following receipt of Litzman’s letter, Deri and Knesset speaker Yariv Levin expressed dismay at Litzman’s decision and said they would work to prevent him from leaving the  government.Edelstein also expressed regret at Litzman’s resignation but cautioned “there is no one here against Judaism. We are all in favor of fighting the virus.”Recall, Litzman previously resigned from the government over the desecration of Shabbat but later returned to his role. 

Peretz said he wants a scaled back closure: “I support a night closure in which about 80% of the economy remains open,” Peretz said Saturday night. “Hundreds of thousands of employees and the self-employed are in existential anxiety. The economic coronavirus pandemic is no less severe than the health pandemic.”

He said he called on Netanyahu to immediately establish a team and determine a compensation package that is clear to everyone.


SIMILARLY, Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir (Blue and White) argued late Saturday night that “a full closure of the entire country during the holidays is too extreme a step and has economic implications that entire industries will not recover from.” 

Zamir lashed out against “outrageous violations” of Health Ministry directives, from nightclub parties to weddings, and against the ministers who have failed to be role models.

“No one is a role model here, including some of my colleagues in the Knesset and government, and this is the result,” he said. But he said that he will vote against the decision to impose the closure nevertheless. And, finally, Education Minister Yoav Gallant (Likud) is pushing back against just one aspect of the closure: shuttering schools this Wednesday as opposed to Friday, when the rest of the closure is expected to start.

“The education system and the students of Israel are our future and our advantage, they are not the cause of illness,” Gallant tweeted Sunday morning. “I will demand at the cabinet meeting that studies be held through this coming Friday, in order to allow the students an educational continuum and their parents’ financial stability.”

מערכת החינוך ותלמידי ישראל הם העתיד והיתרון שלנו, הם לא גורם התחלואה.
הבעיות נמצאות במקומות אחרים והגיעה השעה לטפל בהם.אדרוש בישיבת הממשלה לקיים את הלימודים עד יום ו׳ הקרוב (18/9/20), כדי לאפשר לתלמידים רצף חינוכי ולהוריהם יציבות כלכלית.— יואב גלנט (@yoavgallant) September 13, 2020
On Saturday night, Edelstein was interviewed by N12’s Dana Weiss. He said that despite the noise, he would not accept any negotiations.”As soon as we start setting conditions for one area or another, we will collapse the whole proposal and, as a result, we will collapse the health system,” he said.Edelstein blamed the public for not keeping directives “and so we are closing down… I know there is a heavy price for the closure. For three months, we tried to stop it from happening, but we did not succeed.”The Finance Ministry estimated that the closure would cost the country around NIS 20 billion. 

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