Bibas pushes to give local governments more authority in virus fight

Bibas pushes to give local governments more authority in virus fight

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the heads of local government have pushed to be given more authority to handle the pandemic and Haim Bibas, the mayor of Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut and the chairman of the Federation of Authorities in Israel raised the issue Monday morning in a meeting of the Knesset Education Committee, saying he hoped the trend of allowing local authorities to set their own policy would continue even after the pandemic ended. “In corona, we have proven beyond any doubt that we know how to best manage education. We do not need clerks who will breathe down necks from Jerusalem. Each locality has different characteristics and other criteria and knows how to manage itself in the best way,” he told the committee. “The areas in which we push forward the authorities are determining the number of school days, studying in shifts, hybrid learning, starting a staggered day, determining study complexes in the locality. We are constantly running in pursuit of classrooms and buildings. It’s time to think outside the box and this is an opportunity that will not be repeated. I’m promoting the idea with government ministries and the Teachers Union.”Bibas met on Sunday with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, who presented the vaccination program to him and other heads of local authorities, and Bibas expressed confidence in the ability of local authorities to run this program and oversee the third lockdown, which went into effect Sunday night. “People are willing to enter this closure provided they know it is the last one. A mass  quantity of vaccines must be produced so that we can bring back culture and commerce.”In October, he revealed an innovative plan for a return to routine in the economy, education and everyday life. It calls for creating “COVID-free zones” in stores, schools, institutions, offices, universities and elsewhere, and he has pushed repeatedly for better enforcement of the differential traffic-light program, where cities with higher rates of infection are subject to more severe regulations. He was critical of the Health Ministry’s decisions regarding the closure of the education system in the first two lockdowns and has repeatedly expressed skepticism about the ability of the national government to know how best to help cities and towns across the country. His criticism has intensified as the government collapsed and Israel is now heading for its fourth national election in less than two years. However, some have suggested that, in spite of his criticisms of the government’s coronavirus policies, he is planning to go into national politics himself. A member of the Likud Party, it has been rumored that he will run as part of their list in the election in March.

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Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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