Bennett Discusses Omicron with European Leaders

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a video consultation with Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babic, Tuesday. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

In a conference call with two European leaders, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett defended the use of phone tracking and other measures that Israel has imposed to contain the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, The Times of Israel reported on Tuesday.

Bennett spoke in a video call with Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babic about the challenges posed to their countries by Omicron.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the three shared insights on “the challenges of managing a country” amid a pandemic.

On the controversial subject of phone tracking to be furnished by the Shin Bet security service, Bennett told his counterparts:

“Because it’s very early and there is still a lot of uncertainty we are using drastic steps.”

The Shin Bet Localization Law to allow Israel’s security service to monitor Israelis affected by the Omicron variant was approved Tuesday by government ministers.

The program has faced criticism from privacy and rights groups, and a petition was filed with the High Court on Monday seeking an injunction against it.

The coalition itself battled internal dissent about the law, which threatens to invade citizens’ privacy.

Four ministers opposed the government’s vote: Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Economy Minister Orna Barbibai, Education Minister Yifat Shasha Bitton and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Eli Avidar.

Yesterday, the leaders of the right-wing factions in the coalition suggested to the coalition officials that the law be passed quickly in light of the need to “save citizens’ lives.” In their letter, they stressed that they would only agree to this if the whole coalition voted in favor, which is known not to happen today.