Shasha-Biton: Skies Won’t Reopen August 16

israel flights
El Al planes parked at Ben Gurion Airport last week. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)


The Cabinet has announced plans to allow flights in and out of the country starting August 16, but the Knesset Coronavirus Committee found details hard to come by in a hearing on Monday.

Unable to extract basic information from government representatives, Committee chairwoman MK Yifat Shasha-Biton declared on Monday that “all those Israelis who are thinking that on August 16, the skies will open, it’s important that you know that it won’t happen,” she was quoted as saying by Globes.

At the hearing, Dr. Asher Salmon, head of International Relations in the Israeli Health Ministry, wanted to help but couldn’t.

When asked about which countries would be accepting Israeli passengers despite the high level of coronavirus here, Salmon replied:

“I have a list of countries in my hand but I can’t reveal it, these are more than 10 countries. Some countries are becoming green such as Canada, which accepts Israelis,” he was quoted as saying by The Jerusalem Post.

The Foreign Ministry is currently holding discussions with those countries, and until agreements are reached, the list can’t be disclosed.

Committee chairwoman MK Yifat Shasha-Biton didn’t see why that should be. “These are not state secrets, there is no reason to keep them hidden from MKs,” she said.

The MKs were also mystified by the slow pace of setting up a COVID-19 test lab at Ben Gurion airport, which will be essential for obtaining documentation for processing travelers.

“Why can’t a country that hacked the Iranian Intelligence [Services] open a [coronavirus] lab in 24 hours?” former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked asked.

Yisrael Beytenu MK Yulia Malinovsky lamented that Israel is performing like a third world country. In Ukraine, she said, people get COVID-19 results “right away” and in Jordan “in 15 minutes.” She called belittled reports about the reopening of flights as “Isra-bluff.”

One travel agent summed up the situation for Globes: “There is less than week to go until the skies are supposed to open and meanwhile there is no system for testing, no testing procedures, no diplomatic agreements with other countries, no destinations to fly to and no tourists set to come to Israel, or even bookings that can be made.”

Updated Monday, August 10, 2020 at 2:57 pm updated