Justice Minister Opposes Sweeping New Variant Restrictions

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar expressed his dissent from the cabinet decision to impose emergency restrictions following detection of the Omicron variant in Israel.

Sa’ar, who voted against the majority, said on Sunday that, based on the only partial information available about the variant, the new measures, which include a ban on all foreign flights, are not warranted.

“I previously supported the proposals on [blocking] arrival from those African countries” where the new variant is suspected to be prevalent,” Sa’ar was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying. But “there are restrictions here that I feel are not right, such as restrictions on arriving Israelis, included the vaccinated, and a complete halt of tourism to Israel.”

Sa’ar noted that such measures have “significant economic costs, at a time when we are on a good economic path.”

He argued that the world “will be living for an unknown period of time with the coronavirus and with one mutation or another. We need to maintain our economy and routine life, and enact restrictions when it is truly necessary. We can always take extreme action. I don’t recommend doing so without very, very strong reasons.

“I don’t think the facts presented yesterday justified these decisions and that’s why I voted against them. Of course I respect the majority ruling and it obligates us all,” Sa’ar said.

On the other hand, Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash told 103FM Radio, this was “the most concerning variant so far. The steps being taken are proportionate. We want to delay its arrival in Israel.”

While acknowledging the difficulties of compliance, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said: “I ask of the public patience and discipline.”