Yesh Atid MK backtracks after saying public doesn’t need to obey lockdown

Yesh Atid MK backtracks after saying public doesn’t need to obey lockdown

Idan Roll ‘apologizes for the misunderstanding’ after criticism from Rivlin, among others; says public must follow instructions, but leaves original tweet up

Yesh Atid MK Idan Roll attends a Knesset committee meeting on July 15, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Yesh Atid MK Idan Roll attends a Knesset committee meeting on July 15, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A lawmaker from the opposition Yesh Atid party apologized for a “misunderstanding” after coming under fire for appearing to urge Israelis to disregard a potential coronavirus lockdown Wednesday.

MK Idan Roll tweeted Tuesday that the government “doesn’t have the legitimacy” to impose a renewed lockdown and that if it does order one, Israelis don’t need to obey.

After President Reuven Rivlin tweeted a criticism of the lawmaker’s statement and asked MKs to be careful with what they say Wednesday, Roll responded to the president, saying that he “apologizes for the misunderstanding.”

“My intention was and still is that the loss of public trust in the government is a real danger to democracy and its handling of the coronavirus crisis. Of course I call on the general public to obey the instructions,” Roll said.

When asked by the Kan public broadcaster why he did not delete his original tweet, Roll responded that he didn’t see there was a need to.

Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid seen Idan Roll at a press conference in Tel Aviv, on February 7, 2019 (Flash90)

“As an elected public figure I respect the online discourse. What is it to delete? It remains online,” he said.

On Tuesday, Roll wrote on Twitter: “This government violated the most basic contract with the public, the one that obliges it to protect us in a time of crisis.”

He said government decisions to combat the virus “aren’t based on data” and are driven by political considerations. The government “therefore has no legitimacy to order a full closure and the public should not obey,” Roll wrote.

The tweet sparked fury among right-wing lawmakers, with Likud coalition whip Miki Zohar accusing Roll of calling for “a rebellion.”

Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett called on Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid to renounce Roll’s comments. “This is a call for anarchy and this how a state and its institutions are dismantled,” Bennett wrote on Twitter. “I have very harsh criticism of the government’s failures… but this is an elected government.”

Rivlin said that “calls for civil disobedience violate the foundations on which… our state was established,” and pleaded with lawmakers to “be careful with what you say.”

Roll’s comment was made in the wake of a number of instances in which decisions on coronavirus restrictions appeared to be made without the data to back them up.

The Knesset coronavirus committee on Monday voted that swimming pools and gyms should be reopened after the Health Ministry failed to present infection data that showed their closure was justified.

People exercise at a gym in Modiin on July 14, 2020 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

However, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein on Tuesday asserted that there was plenty of data showing that gyms and pools serve as infection hotspots from other countries, which led the Health Ministry to conclude that the workout facilities are just as risk-prone in Israel.

Last week, MK Moshe Gafni threatened to withdraw his ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party from the coalition if the government decided to close down yeshivas in the face of a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic.

The ultra-Orthodox community suffered disproportionate rates of infection during the first wave of the pandemic, largely ascribed to overcrowded conditions in their neighborhoods, the sector’s intensely communal nature and the initial refusal of rabbis to endorse social-distancing measures and the shutting of synagogues and other religious institutions.

At the start of July, the cabinet approved limitations of up to 50 people at synagogues. It was initially supposed to be a 20-person limitation along with other indoor gatherings, but was upgraded after a conversation between Netanyahu and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, according to a statement from the latter’s office.

As Israel’s coronavirus cases spike, Edelstein has reportedly repeated his warning that if the current trend of rising infections continues, there will be no choice but to impose a full lockdown. The matter would require a ministerial vote and then Knesset approval.

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