Yesh Atid MK contracts COVID, says ‘unreasonable’ to prevent him voting

Knesset speaker reportedly facing pressure to resist Health Ministry’s call for Vladimir Beliak to be blocked from taking part in plenum votes, as coalition struggles to pass laws

Yesh Atid MK Vladimir Beliak (Screen capture: YouTube)
Yesh Atid MK Vladimir Beliak (Screen capture: YouTube)

A lawmaker in Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party on Wednesday tested positive for coronavirus, in a potential fresh blow to the coalition as it struggles to pass legislation with a razor-thin Knesset majority.

After MK Vladimir Beliak was confirmed to have COVID-19, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash called on the government, which holds jurisdiction over the parliament building, to prevent him from taking part in plenum votes at the Knesset.

“It’s unreasonable to prevent a Knesset member from voting in the plenum, even if he is confirmed to have coronavirus,” Beliak tweeted in response. “I will never violate the guidelines, but I expect the Health Ministry to offer a reasonable solution that will allow me to exercise my democratic right.”

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, who is also in Yesh Atid, was holding consultations on whether to permit Beliak to vote, with members of the coalition pushing him to buck Ash’s request, according to Channel 13 news.

Without Beliak present, the coalition will lack the 61 votes needed to advance quasi-constitutional Basic Laws in the 120-seat Knesset, as it faced fresh challenges in mustering a majority to pass legislation.

Beliak’s diagnosis came several hours before Lapid was allowed to leave quarantine, after an aide suspected of having COVID tested negative in two subsequent tests.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with EU foreign ministers in Brussels, July 12, 2021. (European Union)

Lapid entered quarantine Tuesday after a rapid test for the aide came back positive. The aide was part of an entourage that traveled to Brussels with the foreign minister for a series of high-level meetings, and was the only person on the return flight to test positive for COVID.

Beliak’s contraction of the virus and the reversal of the aide’s diagnosis came as Israel faces a resurgence in infections after morbidity largely receded following the country’s successful national vaccine rollout, which has so far appeared to prevent the corresponding sharp rises in serious cases and mortality seen in previous outbreaks.

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