Exceptions Committee to be Scrapped, Travel Ban Revised to Allow Stranded Back In

YERUSHALAYIM -
Gloves hang from a booth at an on-site COVID-19 testing facility in Ben Gurion Airport. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The committee for issuing special entry permits during the covid travel ban will likely be suspended amid charges that citizens cannot be denied their right to return to the country, and especially during an election year.

The cabinet will consider a new framework to enable an estimated 25,000 Israelis to return home, Transportation Minister Miri Regev said Sunday in a press briefing.

Regev said she met with Health Ministry and National Security Council officials about the framework earlier Sunday and decided that the Exceptions Committee should be discontinued. As part of the framework, only citizens of the country would be allowed in, and they would have to go to coronavirus hotels, where they would vote, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The Israel Democracy Institute on Sunday sent an opinion paper to Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri which asserted that the sweeping restrictions on travel currently in force are “extremely problematic from a constitutional perspective and are without parallel in the democratic world.”

The authors of the opinion—Prof. Yuval Shany, Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, Dr. Amir Fuchs, Dr. Guy Lurie, and Nadiv Mordechai—made a comparative study of democracies around the world that found Israel’s restrictions to be the most draconian. Currently, all entry and exit to the country is banned, including for citizens, except for travelers whose entry has been approved by the government-appointed Exceptions Committee.

They cited Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States as countries struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, but all allowing their own citizens entry into their country.

“In view of every person’s constitutional right to leave Israel and every citizen’s right to re-enter the country, a general prohibition on entry and exit is not in the spirit of the provisions of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. There is a concern that the erosion of the rights affected is not proportionate, but rather extreme, even in view of the current health challenge,” the researchers wrote, according to The Times of Israel.

The opinion also noted that the entry ban could infringe on the right to vote in the upcoming elections, as Israelis must be present in the country in order to cast their ballot, except for diplomats stationed abroad.