Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had a rough few weeks trying to develop a cohesive nationwide coronavirus restriction policy. Last week, he settled for a dusk to dawn curfew affecting 40 cities that have become Covid-19 hotspots. The order which came into effect on Tuesday has been met with some resistance, with a slew of opposition members critiquing it as ineffective.
The directive is, however, set to change. According to the latest report, the Israeli cabinet is mulling over the imposition of a full lockdown this week.
The lockdown plan reportedly targets the closure of public places, including restaurants, schools, and shopping malls. It is expected to come into effect on Thursday on the eve of the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year festival.
A Curfew Driven by Politics?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in the past week faced accusations of playing politics with the lives of Israelis by capitulating to ultra-Orthodox anti-lockdown demands.
This is after a collective of Haredi mayors wrote a letter last Sunday censuring him for sidelining their community. They accused him of prejudice and attempting to selectively impose lockdowns on Haredi zones.
The ultra-Orthodox mayors announced that they would stop cooperating with the government if a lockdown was imposed on their territories.
To avoid further conflict, the prime minister chose to impose a curfew instead of a lockdown on affected regions.
Opposition leader, Avigdor Liberman of the Yisrael Beytenu party, lambasted Netanyahu for the decision, stating, “The deal is simple. Bibi is giving the ultra-Orthodox everything they want, and in response they get him out of jail. What happens when public health is on the line?”
He added that the prime minister feared losing the support of ultra-Orthodox communities, hence the backpedaling on a planned nationwide lockdown.
Prior to the announcement, Coronavirus Commissioner, Professor Ronni Gamzu had called for a lockdown covering coronavirus hotspots but was overruled.
What Caused the Ultra-Orthodox, Government Clash
The clash between the ultra-Orthodox community and the Israeli administration on the lockdown was precipitated by Gamzu’s public remarks on the matter.
This is after he accused the Arab and ultra-Orthodox communities of ignoring social distancing measures. He subsequently proposed a lockdown on their zones. The ultra-Orthodox community took this as a prejudicial affront.
A Political Move for Netanyahu
It is easy to see why Netanyahu chose to be more lenient to the ultra-Orthodox community when he ordered a curfew instead of a lockdown last week.
One reason is that he is trying to appease his political allies while trying to avert a Covid-19 crisis. There has been a sharp rise in street protests opposing Netanyahu’s leadership in the past few weeks, and he is keen to quell these uprisings.
Some political analysts also contend that his power and influence is waning. He’s therefore more hesitant in making some important decisions.