Erdan: Complete Closure, Martial Law on the Way

Interior Security Minister Gilad Erdan. (Flash90)

Israel is on its way to a total lockdown, with the IDF taking control of the public space and severely limiting freedom of movement of Israelis, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in an interview Monday. Erdan laid out his plans for protecting Israelis from coronavirus infections – including IDF troops patrolling communities, and a near-total curfew that would require people to stay in their homes at all times, in essence martial law.

“We are definitely moving towards a total closure,” Erdan said in an interview with Reshet Bet. “Hundreds of thousands of more people will have to stay home. Israel will be divided into four quarters, and police, along with IDF troops, will check individuals who are outside to determine if they have a good reason for being out.” Erdan said that he had already proposed this last week. “My fear is what will happen in another week or two. I already said last week that we needed to go to a total closure, with much greater enforcement. There will be fewer reasons to leave home,” he said.

Yisrael Hayom quoted IDF sources as saying that the army was “prepared and ready” to carry out a full closure. The move would entail the Defense Ministry and the IDF being given the chief responsibility for handling the crisis, taking it away from the Health Ministry – and the latter has been resisting the idea. The sources said that putting the army in charge was the only way to severely limit the movement of people and thus reduce the number of infections. “It’s a matter of life and death,” the sources said, adding that the army expected to be tasked with enforcing rules on social distancing in the coming days, as the number of those infected is expected to rise significantly.

The IDF’s plans include options for dealing with both the coronavirus crisis and other events, such as terror attacks and natural disasters. Among the contingencies being taken into consideration is a complete takeover of the economy by the IDF, with soldiers presumably in charge of delivering supplies to citizens who will not be allowed out of their houses to go shopping. The IDF prefers that the police enforce the closure, but is ready to provide assistance if needed.

The sources told the newspaper that “this is a decision that makes sense. If there is no catastrophe, then there is no reason to sow panic among the public and keep everyone in their homes. And if there is a catastrophe, it should be handled by the only group that has experience in handling such events.”