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Weeks before election, cabinet okays political rallies for vaccinees

Ministers permit 300 people indoors and 500 people outdoors, with space no more than 75% full

A laborer sorts election posters bearing the portrait of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Likud party's electoral campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv, on March 2, 2020. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)
A laborer sorts election posters bearing the portrait of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Likud party's electoral campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv, on March 2, 2020. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)

Ministers on Monday approved political parties holding election events of up to 300 people indoors and 500 people outdoors for individuals who are vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus.

The decision comes three weeks before Israelis head to the polls on March 23 for the country’s fourth national vote in two years.

Under the decision, the rally space cannot be more than 75 percent full, social distancing must be maintained and all attendees must be either vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus.

All participants in the events will need to be seated and masked and maintain social distancing regulations of two meters or at least a single empty seat between them, with the exception of family members.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to attend the Likud party’s first large-scale event under the regulations in the central city of Petah Tikva on Thursday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at the Likud Party’s election rally near Tel Aviv, Feb 29, 2020. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Additionally, security staff will need to be provided at a ratio of one to every 50 participants and the sale of any food or drink other than mineral water will be prohibited, The Marker reported.

The plan was not welcomed by some coalition members, as well as Netanyahu’s rivals.

“It is very unfortunate that while thousands of brides and grooms are biting their nails in uncertainty and waiting in vain for the event halls to open under regulations, the Likud party is making regulations for election conferences with hundreds of participants,” said MK Ya’akov Asher of United Torah Judaism.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party said it would “not take advantage of the loophole” to hold a political event that could “endanger public health.”

Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party said that it would not hold any events “this week,” but would consider it in the future if public health could be maintained.

A closed restaurant on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv, January 06, 2021 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The plan was criticized by some for allowing mass gatherings indoors while thousands of students still remain at home and many businesses remain shuttered.

Tomer Lotan, a senior official in the Health Ministry, told The Marker that the outline for the proposal was based on that used for cultural events, which the immunized public is also now allowed to attend under restrictions.

“It is necessary to balance the democratic right before the election and the careful management of the event in accordance with the guidelines, in the same way that we authorize the vaccinated public to go and see a show or performance,” Lotan said.

Tel Aviv kicks off the return of live performances with a concert by singer Nurit Galron for the city’s older residents in Ganei Yehoshua park, February 24, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The next stage of the government’s reopening plan, scheduled for next week, includes allowing students in grades 7-10 to return to school in low-infection areas, reopening restaurants and cafes, permitting hotels and event halls to open in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines, and easing limitations on gatherings.

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