Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman resigned from the government on Sunday in protest of the government’s imminent decision to impose a general lockdown during the upcoming holiday period.
Litzman — the former health minister — had long threatened to resign if the lockdown plan is approved, and had also said his United Torah Judaism party could bolt the coalition.
Litzman accused coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu of planning for months to impose a lockdown on Rosh Hashanah — which begins this week — and Yom Kippur while avoiding the move during the summer season.
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Litzman decried the fact that the lockdown would prevent worshipers, including tens of thousands of Jews who don’t go to a synagogue during most of the year, from attending the most important and well-attended Jewish services of the year.
Litzman, who was infected with coronavirus in April when he was health minister and was also reportedly caught attending a prayer group of more than 10 men despite a ban on such gatherings, said he had opposed the lockdown plan “in all forums” and said that if a lockdown was needed, it should have been imposed a month or several weeks ago.
“Unfortunately, it has been proven that I was right and that the decision to impose a general lockdown during the Tishrei festivals was pre-made while taking an unnecessary risk and causing a rise in infections in the meantime,” he wrote.
He also claimed Netanyahu had violated an agreement according to which synagogues would remain open under more lenient restrictions than those set to be approved.
“Therefore, I won’t be able to continue in my role as minister, and I have decided to resign from the government and return to being a member of the Knesset according to the Norwegian Law,” he said, referring to a law that allows ministers to resign from the Knesset and allow another lawmaker to replace them, and return to the parliament when they cease to serve as minister.
Netanyahu said he was “very saddened” at the decision, but added: “I respect Yaakov Litzman and I also respect his decision.”
He was speaking at the opening of a cabinet meeting during which ministers are expected to approve the lockdown decision.
“We must move forward, make the decisions needed for the State of Israel during the coronavirus crisis, and that’s what we will do during this meeting,” he said.