Following the High Court ruling that the government’s restriction on the number of incoming airline passengers was unconstitutional, airlines were reportedly augmenting their flight schedules.
According to media reports, United Airlines plans to return to 13 flights a week from Newark and San Francisco to Tel Aviv. Israeli airlines Israir, Arkia and El Al were also expected to announce expanded schedules.
Government officials registered their displeasure with the court, saying it disregarded the public safety.
Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash said “the decision is very worrying, since it will allow the importing of high [coronavirus] morbidity and dangerous mutations to Israel.”
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch charged that the High Court decision risks “bringing [virus] mutations into Israel. Good luck to us.”
Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin decried the decision, saying the “judges come and say ‘We’ll endanger all your lives for a constitutional principle from a non-existent principle.”
However, Judge Hayut left room for maneuver, noting that the restriction can remain if “the state can present comprehensive and up to date factual evidence and ensure that the regulations comply as required with constitutional tests.”
Taking the cue, an interministerial committee has been tasked with formulating a plan that might satisfy the judges. Representatives of the Health Ministry, National Security Council, Transportation Ministry and Justice Ministry are to work together on it, according to Channel 12.
In any event, the impact of the ruling on Israeli citizens right to vote will be mitigated by the fact that it takes effect only two days before the election.
High Court President Judge Esther Hayut said that “Even in a tough crisis such as the global pandemic, human rights and civil rights cannot be pushed underground,” a reference to the thousands of Israelis who would not be able to return in time to cast their votes in the March 23 election while a quota of 3,000 remains on the number of people allowed in the country.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, one of the petitioners, said in response to the ruling: “The State of Israel is the only democracy in the world that has closed its doors to its citizens and is doing this and even preventing them from the basic right of voting in elections. This is just another particularly bad symptom of the government’s conduct during the coronavirus crisis, of impulsive decision making from moment to moment while constantly trampling on basic constitutional rights. We welcome this important ruling by the Court and call on all Israeli citizens to return home and vote in the elections.”
The Israel Association of Public Health Physicians of the Israel Medical Association said, “Unfortunately, instead of planning and implementing sustainable solutions at Ben Gurion airport and the borders, the government has issued illogical and impossible to apply instructions while creating problematic exemptions committees. This situation harmed both passengers and public health. We hope that following the High Court’s ruling, the government will implement balanced professional solutions for the intelligent management of transit points and borders.”