Back to Blog


Monfort Advisory brief / July 2020
After a successful first round against the Coronavirus in April-May, with numbers of positive cases dropping to a handful per day, Israel rapidly reopened its economy and education system. The swift reopening and growing disregard for safety regulations, prompted by a belief that the virus was squashed, have brought Israel to the precipice of a “second wave”, as numbers dramatically rise, with about 1,000 new cases confirmed each day. While experts are debating whether this rise indeed constitutes the dreaded “second wave” or can be attributed to a rise in testing, it is clear that the sense that the crisis is behind us has been replaced with trepidation and calls for action.
In recent days, the government announced a new set of restrictions on businesses and public spaces, as well as increased enforcement of mask-wearing and monitoring patients using electronic surveillance systems. The need for speedy action has also led the government to promote legislation that would allow it to take action without needing prior approval from the legislative body, the Knesset.
For context, it is important to note that when the first wave of Coronavirus hit, there was no government in Israel yet. Netanyahu served as interim Prime Minister and in the absence of government and Knesset committees conducting oversight and providing approval, he was able to decide on and implement measures and policies and respond to the evolving crisis quickly. Now, with a working Knesset, all decisions must undergo proper parliamentary procedures and receive approval from the relevant committees. This makes it impossible for Netanyahu to decide on measures and implement them without delay.
Therefore, in a move that can only be described as ironic, the Knesset put forth and approved a bill that essentially deprives it of its power to provide oversight – legislating a law that allows the government to enact Coronavirus measures without approval from the parliament. The bill passed into law on second and third readings by a 29 to 24 vote, no abstentions, after being introduced several hours earlier. According to the new law, decrees regulating restrictions to prevent the COVID-19 outbreak will go in effect immediately. After that, it will need to receive approval by the legislative committee within a week or the measure must be approved by Knesset. Under the previous system, decisions made by the government needed to be approved by the special Coronavirus cabinet or another relevant Knesset committee. The new law permitting the government unfettered edicts on restrictions will last a month, until August 6.
The bill was strongly criticized for allowing the government unprecedented power to enact measures without oversight or checks and balances and expressed concern that the bill would not be terminated after a month and leave the government with unchecked power. Proponents of the bill argued it was necessary given the emergency facing the country, where quick action is crucial. The opposition in the Knesset is currently planning to fight the law which, it argues, is a danger to democracy and negation on the responsibility of the Knesset to check the government’s power, even and especially in times of crisis.