The beginning of the end of Israel’s current COVID-19 lockdown depends on the public demonstrating unity and discipline, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday afternoon at a Likud faction meeting.

“It also depends on technology we develop,” said Netanyahu, referring to Israel’s efforts to develop a vaccine.

“We are making a great effort to develop a vaccine for COVID. The problem is that there are 120 main entities that are also trying to. We are developing our vaccine at the [Israel Institute for Biological Research] in Ness Ziona, but it will take time. There are three or four companies that have gotten there, but all the countries are standing in line. What I’m trying to do, along with the Health Ministry, is use our special difficulties to try and move us up in line, so the citizens can get vaccines in time. I’m pretty optimistic,” he said.

Netanyahu said that the government would ease the lockdown according to a gradual plan that would be agreed upon and evaluated.

“Reverting to this situation is difficult because we see all the criticism, but the right decisions must be made,” he told faction members.

On Monday, the Knesset began its winter session amid bitter coalition infighting. Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin and opposition leader Yair Lapid all spoke before the plenum. Due to the lockdown, there were no guests other than Israeli Supreme Court President Justice Esther Hayut.

The Knesset was due to vote on a no-confidence measure proposed by Yesh Atid. To pass, 61 MKs must vote for it.

However, Blue and White Party leader Defense Minister Benny Gantz said his party would not be voting in favor.

“It’s a public-relations move and not an action that has a chance. However, the loss of the public’s and the leadership’s trust should be a warning light to the prime minister and the Cabinet members,” said Gantz.

Gantz also insisted that a budget for 2021 would be passed in December, along with the 2020 budget.

At a meeting of his own Yesh Atid-Telem faction on Monday, Lapid said that any MK who didn’t vote in favor of his no-confidence measure was a “coward.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have a gentler word for it. This government is incapable of handling the [COVID-19] crisis. This prime minister has failed to handle the crisis. Anyone who knows that and doesn’t vote no-confidence is simply a coward,” said Lapid.

“The Blue and White people know this government has failed. That’s not a political statement. The numbers prove it. Unemployment proves it. The resignation of all the upper echelon of the Treasury proves it. The public doesn’t have a scrap of faith in the government. There is no chance of this government handling public health and the economy properly. Gantz and [Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi] Ashkenazi are saying that. [Yamina Party head Naftali] Bennett is saying that. [Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor] Lieberman is saying that,” he said.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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