Israel suspends parliament after lawmaker tests positive for coronavirus

After he was spotted without a mask among crowds of people, Knesset member Sami Abu Shehadeh announced Thursday he was infected with the virus.

al-monitor Israel's President Reuven Rivlin (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) are seen at the sparsely attended opening ceremony of the 23rd Knesset in West Jerusalem, March 16, 2020.  Photo by Mark Neyman/GPO/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Jun 4, 2020

Parliament sessions in Israel are on hold after a legislator repeatedly photographed without a mask tested positive for the coronavirus. 

“All Knesset workers have been instructed to not arrive at parliament if their work is not essential," a statement from parliament said. Committee meetings were also postponed Thursday “until all the ramifications are examined.” 

Sami Abu Shehadeh, a member of the Joint List coalition in parliament, received a positive test result Wednesday evening. The other members of the Balad party, his faction of the Joint List, are currently in quarantine. 

"I appeal to all of those who have been in my immediate vicinity to self-isolate and get tested,” Shehadeh tweeted. He continued, “The virus still exists between us and the return to normal is helping the virus spread in a large and fast way.” 

He told an Israeli radio station that he has recently “met with thousands of people” during various protests, family events and Knesset activities. Local television outlets showed Shehadeh without a mask during several of these meetings. 

On Thursday, a lawmaker in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party referred to Shehadeh’s diagnosis as a “terror attack” carried out by his prominently Arab political party. Fateen Mulla later walked back those comments, insisting he meant “political attack.”  

Last month, Israel’s parliament swore in a new government led by Netanyahu with his former rival Benny Gantz as his deputy. As part of the unity government deal, Netanyahu can advance plans to annex parts of the Palestinian territories, including the strategic Jordan Valley, as soon as July 1.  

This story contains reporting from Agence France-Presse.

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