The Knesset easily passed into law by 40 to 18 vote a bill on Sunday that doubles the fines for violations of coronavirus regulations from NIS 5000 to NIS 10,000.

The parliament met in a rare meeting on a Sunday in order to preempt the end of the lockdown that had only been passed through Sunday night. 

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz refused to vote for continuing the lockdown until the bill doubling the fines would pass.

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin accused Gantz of behaving irresponsibly, “driving everyone crazy,” and “holding the country hostage” for political reasons.

“Your ultimatum grabbed Israeli citizens and the Knesset by the throat,” Levin said. “You failed to show respect to the Knesset and its stature.”

Gantz responded that it was the Likud that behaved irresponsibly and he was right to insist on the law treating all citizens equally. He told Levin that incidents of mass violations of restrictions on gathering with no fines, as happened at Sunday’s funeral of Brisk Yeshiva head, Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik, would cease once the bill became law.

After the vote passed, Blue and White claimed victory and said it was also a victory for the citizens of Israel. 

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) told the Knesset that when he initiated the bill, it was not intended for haredim (ultra-Orthodox), Arabs or any other sector. 

Arab MKs voted against the bill. Ta’al leader Ahmad Tibi said enforcement of coronavirus regulations has been racist. He noted that 18 of the twenty towns with the most fines are Arab towns.

Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said he voted in favor, despite the apparent racism against Arabs to protest what he called [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu being trampled by the haredim.

MKs from the haredi Shas, Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah factions boycotted the vote.  

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