Far-Right Government Agrees on Full Lockdown, Limiting Protests

Only six days after the beginning of a tempered national lockdown, top ministers acknowledged Thursday morning, September 24, that these measures were insufficient amid burgeoning infections, and reportedly agreed to impose a full closure expected to be more severe than Israel’s first closure in March and April. The full lockdown will begin today, Friday, September 25, and will last until October 11, after the end of the Jewish New Year holidays.

Members of the Black Flag movement demonstrate against Netanyahu towards evening on Thursday, September 17, near the port of Ashdod.

Members of the Black Flag movement demonstrate against Netanyahu towards evening on Thursday, September 17, near the port of Ashdod. (Photo: Black Flag)

During the full closure, demonstrators will be allowed to protest only within a kilometer of their homes, and in groups of up to 20 persons — meaning an end to the mass protests regularly held against far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street. Netanyahu has criticized weekly demonstrations against him as a health hazard; however, there has been no data on infections contracted at the protests. Demonstrations should be “restrained completely during the lockdown period,” Finance Minister Israel Katz said in an interview with the Knesset Television Channel. “The protests are destroying democracy and protesters should turn to social media,” Katz added.

The decision came at the end of long hours of deliberations in the so-called “coronavirus cabinet” that saw heated disagreements about which sectors of the economy should remain open, and on whether the right to protest should be preserved during the closure. The government’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, was opposed to a full closure of workplaces, warning of the devastating effect the move would have on the economy. Dr. Gamzu is said to have instead recommended a “smart closure” that would also take into account the damage to the economy. According to Channel 12 news, the new “hermetic lockdown” will see almost the entire economy shuttered except for vital stores such as supermarkets and pharmacies, as well as certain specially approved essential industries.

The Black Flag and Crime Minister movements announced on Wednesday that they will be holding various demonstrations across the country over the coming weekend. These include protests in Jerusalem and at major overpasses and intersections, as well as deploying convoys of protesters that will be passing through various cities.

“The State of Israel is under lockdown that’s completely the fault of the [corruption trial] defendant Bibi. He has been busy with his trial, repeated incitement, luxurious flights and tax return issues for the past six months. The fact that Israel has close to 7,000 new daily infections is Netanyahu’s failure,” a Black Flag Movement statement read. “If Israel wishes to overcome the coronavirus crisis – Netanyahu has to resign from his position as prime minister. We will continue our struggle for the sake of the State of Israel and its citizens.”