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Israel extends authoritarian COVID law despite no outbreak

'This is an unwillingness to give up the power and control'

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February 01, 2023


09:52 AM

Israel extends authoritarian COVID law despite no outbreak

Israel’s Knesset (parliament) Sunday renewed the Law on Special Authorities for Dealing with the Novel Coronavirus which grants the government unbridled authority to implement sweeping restrictions and criminalize non-compliance.  

Despite there being no COVID-19 outbreak the law will remain in effect until February 15, 2024, "to continue to enable legal infrastructure for imposing restrictions and maintaining public health." 

The law authorizes the government to require proof of vaccination, a negative coronavirus test or recovery certificate as a condition for entering places that are open to the public, businesses, workplaces, and more. 

Restrictions may be placed on movement and gatherings both in public and private spaces, including one’s own residence. The government can close businesses and can force those that remain open to serve only the vaccinated. 

Physical distancing and masking requirements may also be enforced. 

Establishments allowing entry to a person who has not presented an up-to-date negative test result, Green Pass vaccine passport, or proof of recovery may be fined up to NIS 10,000 ($2,815).  

The government may enforce hygiene, regulate types of activities and place restrictions related to a person’s private vehicle. Limitations on schools may be enforced as well. 

“The law does not generally apply to the president of the state, official buildings of the Knesset, the state comptroller’s office, and courts and tribunals,” says the bill. “It similarly does not apply to the Israel Defense Force, the Israel police, the Prison Authority, and other institutions specified by the law.” 

"Due to the uncertainty and the need for further monitoring of the corona disease, and especially against the background of the reports from China about the outbreak of the disease there, the minister accepted the recommendation of the professional officials at the Ministry of Health to extend the validity of the law,” Health Ministry officials told N12.

Acting Health Minister Yoav Ben-Zur reportedly signed the request to reinstate the law without officially consulting with the ministry.

The government notified the public of its proposal to renew the law and allowed public comment until January 13, 2023, but has ignored the overwhelming public opposition to the move.

Public Health Doctors Union Chairman Prof. Hagai Levin said: "We are not where we were three years ago, this is an unwillingness to give up the power and control that the authorities received during the COVID era.”

"This law is a draconian law that gives very broad powers to the ministry, cancels normal mechanisms of discussion in the Knesset and public discussion and may lead to misuse under the pretext of protecting public health in a disproportionate way,” he added.

Israel’s government drew heavily on these powers throughout the pandemic. Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who accused the unvaccinated of "walking around with a machine gun firing Delta variants at people,” at one point proposed mandating bracelets which would publicly identify those who had not received the injections. He also proposed forcing the unvaccinated to pay for their own healthcare. Both proposals were supported by then-Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz though Bennett relented due to social pressure. 

It was revealed last year that Israel's Health Ministry knew masks had 'no strong scientific basis' before imposing the mask mandate. Documents released under the freedom of information act revealed that Israel’s Health Ministry imposed the policy to send an “educational” message to increase COVID compliance.

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