A bill that would increase the fines issued to Israelis caught violating the country’s COVID-19 public-health laws is slated to be presented to the Knesset for a first reading on Monday.

On Saturday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin to promote the bill. Netanyahu intends to expedite the legislation, apparently in response to public criticism over lax enforcement of coronavirus restrictions in the haredi sector.

The coronavirus cabinet previously approved the bill, but it stalled when initially brought to the Knesset, where it encountered opposition from the haredi factions, whose members object to it mainly because it stipulates that any educational institution operating in violation of public-health directives will be fined 20,000 shekels ($6,110), significantly more than the 5,000 shekels ($1,500) that schools open illegally are currently fined.

Netanyahu agreed to discuss the bill with Shas leader Aryeh Deri, United Torah Judaism leader Yaakov Litzman and Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni by last Wednesday or Thursday, but no such conversations took place.

Sources in the haredi factions stressed on Saturday night that until their representatives are able to discuss the matter with Netanyahu, they will not budge.

One party source told Israel Hayom that there was a sense in the haredi public that the bill was “political, directed at the haredi sector.”

“It taints them. We don’t need to go crazy. We need enforcement. Schools that are open are fined,” said the source.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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