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Knesset to consider 'Special Powers' COVID law that would consolidate authority under coalition to make emergency laws

Opponents planning protest tomorrow, fear the lack of Knesset oversight will lead to dictatorial powers if legislation becomes law

Israelis protest against the Israeli government's vaccination and Green Pass policies outside of PM Naftali Bennett's residence in Rananna, Sept. 21, 2021. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Knesset will consider tomorrow a piece of legislation to extend the special powers of the government during the pandemic including the ability to “anchor” the Green Passport in place, expand surveillance on people in quarantine and make it a crime to refuse to undergo a PCR test.

The “Special Powers Law,” which will be considered at the Knesset tomorrow, would “extend the validity period of the law until the end of 2022 in order to continue to enable legal infrastructure for imposing restrictions and maintaining public health.”

According to a translated copy of the legislation obtained by ALL ISRAEL NEWS, the law would consolidate these special powers in the coalition and not open up votes to the full 120-member Knesset – raising accusations that this violates the system of checks and balances and remove Knesset oversight.

“This is a dangerous law. It is far more dangerous than any law they’ve passed till now,” attorney Oren Pasternak said. “The law establishes a dictatorship type government until December 2022. And it transfers the authority from the full Knesset to the government (coalition), nearly obliterating parliamentary procedure.”

Pasternak also contends that the law would essentially transfer police powers to business owners who would face increased fines for failing to check and scan a digital vaccine/recovery certificate.

It also sets the age of consent at 14.

“The consent of a minor over the age of 14 will be sufficient, and no consent from his parents will be required,” the proposed legislation says.

It would also cancel the right of prisoners or people charged in a crime to have an in-person hearing in the case of a coronavirus outbreak.

“The possibility of adding a legislative amendment is considered in which the authority will determine the obligation to perform a coronavirus test for a person, when – for not carrying out the examination – a criminal offense will be determined by way of imposing a rationed administrative fine,” the legislation says. “Such a proposal is intended to address a situation of fear of a dangerous strain of the coronavirus, for example a strain with (fewer) vaccine benefits, or a violent strain of the virus that causes more severe morbidity.”

Until now, Israel has allowed people without a vaccine/recovery certificate to present a negative COVID test valid within 24 hours. Under the new law, an establishment can choose to demand the Green Passport (vaccine/recovery certificate) only, meaning an unvaccinated person who has not recovered for COVID in the past six months would hence be banned.

Ilana Rachel Daniel who has been actively raising awareness of these issues said the law “is nothing less than the end to democracy and our beloved country as we know it.”

“Allowing unbridled authority to a singular branch of government which already acts with totalitarian power to execute complete control over both the citizen’s individual right to choose and public policy will legislate dictatorship and the continued deterioration of the society and morals we have built our country upon,” she told ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

When this latest legislation went up on the Knesset’s website, inviting public comments, a flood of some 17,000 responses were registered on the site compared to around 5,000 for previous laws. A protest against this proposed legislation is planned for tomorrow at the Knesset.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the Knesset has passed temporary laws to allow it to operate in a state of emergency, for two months at a time and then voting to extend another two months. This law would set the state of emergency four months at a time.

The legislation also would give a doctor the authority to shut down an establishment, “in whole or in part, … if the person carrying the coronavirus has been there, or there is a concern that there has been a person carrying a dangerous strain of the coronavirus.”

The government would be given authority to “restrict activity in the public and private spheres, workplaces, businesses, educational institutions, welfare institutions, restrictions on transportation and aviation, etc.”

The legislation also expands surveillance of people under quarantine and authorizes the transfer of information on people in isolation to local institutions. The government would also decide who pays for quarantining in government-run COVID facilities – which have not been widely used thus far.

[Listen to podcast here.]

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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