Tamano-Shata Accuses Bennett of Racism in Omicron Policy

YERUSHALAYIM -

Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata has accused Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of racism in his application of a ban on travelers from southern African countries due to concerns about the Omicron variant, The Times of Israel reported on Sunday.

Tamano-Shata, who has been at odds with the government over the issue of bringing Ethiopians to Israel amid civil war in that country, threatening to resign if their immigration was not expedited, charged that Bennett was “only making exceptions for white countries in Africa.”

Last month, Israel added most nations in Africa to its list of “red countries” — to which Israelis are not allowed to enter, and from which returnees must complete full quarantine. The Israeli measure paralleled similar action by the U.S. and other countries. The U.K. barred all foreign travelers on Sunday.

Northern African nations including Egypt, Algeria and Morocco are only listed as “orange” on the Israeli Health Ministry’s rankings.

Bennett reportedly responded that the steps were necessary in order to protect against the concerning Omicron variant, which was believed to originate in South Africa.