SITUATION UPDATE BRIEF: ISRAEL – SECOND LOCKDOWN WILL DEEPEN ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL INSTABILITY

Overview

Israeli lawmakers voted on 10 September to implement fresh lockdown measures after the country recorded 4,038 new cases of Covid-19 in a single day, the highest total since the pandemic began. Yesterday, the government approved a three-week lockdown beginning on Friday, 18 September. Israelis will not be allowed to go more than 500m from their homes, with the closures of most non-essential businesses. After this initial period, localised restrictions may then remain in place in areas that continue to record high numbers of infections. This second lockdown coincides with the Jewish festivals of Rosh Hashanah (18-20 September) and Yom Kippur (27-28 September) and will exacerbate anti-government sentiment at a critical time for the ruling coalition’s stability.

Lockdown restrictions will drive criticism of the government amidst political uncertainty

The decision to lockdown for a second time will be highly unpopular with Israelis, who continue to face considerable uncertainty and the prospect of job losses. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already been heavily criticised for his handling of the pandemic, as critics accuse him of prioritising maintaining his own grip on power while fighting corruption charges.

This has led to widespread protests in recent weeks against the long-serving premier, including from some in the ultra-Orthodox community who have traditionally been among his strongest supporters. Calls for Netanyahu’s resignation intensified over the weekend, as thousands of people gathered outside his residence in Jerusalem. Notably, the timing of the second lockdown, clashing with both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, prompted ultra-Orthodox cabinet minister and former Netayahu ally Yaakov Litzman to resign from the government…

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