Ben-Gurion Airport to Remain Closed Until Feb. 21; Legality of Ban Questioned

The empty arrival hall at Ben Gurion Airport. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The government made a decision Thursday night to keep the skies closed for at least another two weeks. That means that with few exceptions, Israelis cannot enter or exit the country.

The new restrictions are in place until February 21.

However, a new “Exceptions Committee” will be able to approve the entry and exit of certain people for specific reasons.

Applications to the committee can be made via a form available on the Foreign, Health and Immigration ministries’ websites, as well as the Prime Minister’s Office’s. Forms need to be accompanied by supporting documentation.

The committee is composed of representatives from each of these ministries, as well as members of the Diaspora and Tourism ministries.

  • Israelis can leave the country for the following reasons, according to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Transportation Ministry.
  • To receive essential medical treatment that cannot be delayed. In this case, the traveler can be accompanied by a support person.
  • To attend a funeral of a first-degree relative.
  • To assist a first-degree relative who is in distress and has no one local to help.
  • To attend a legal proceeding of which they are a part of or are required by law to attend.
  • To take part in a humanitarian mission.
  • Traveling on a state-sponsored mission, such as for the purpose of foreign relations, as approved by the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry or Prime Minister’s Office.
  • For an extended period of time, to take up permanent residence somewhere else.
  • Professional athletes and coaches can obtain permits to attend competitions outside the country.
  • Non-Israeli citizens or non-permanent residents who are currently in Israel can get permission to leave.

There are also ways for Israelis who are presently outside Israel to get permission to enter.

In rare cases, non-Israeli citizens may also obtain permission to enter the country.

According to Justice (ret.) Dr. Iris Soroker, the director of The Heth Academic Center for Research of Competition and Regulation, although the list seems long, in practice it is very limited in scope and does not allow a citizen to exercise a fundamental right to return to his country “just because” it is his home. For example, because one returned from a business trip or a visit to a family living abroad, or a visit to the homeland of students studying abroad.

This directive is outrageous and illegal, Soroker says, and the coronavirus crisis cannot justify it. Precisely in crisis situations it is appropriate to be careful in using such measures, she notes, and points to the “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty,” which deals with leaving and entering Israel, that explicitly states: “Every Israeli citizen who is abroad is entitled to enter Israel.”

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