Limiting Citizens' Entry to Israel Before Election May Be Illegal, Attorney General Says

A governmental plan set to go into effect next week slashes the number of Israelis allowed to return from abroad from 2,000 a day to 200

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Netanyahu during a tour of Ben-Gurion International Airport, last month
Netanyahu during a tour of Ben-Gurion International Airport, last monthCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit told cabinet ministers their plan to limit entry of Israelis returning from abroad to only 200 faces legal difficulties, Justice Ministry officials told Haaretz.

Mendelblit’s argument is that Israelis who aren’t able to return to Israel under these restrictions before the end of March won’t be able to vote in Israel’s upcoming election.

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Mendelblit and his deputy, Raz Nizri, explained to ministers that in the case that a new nationwide lockdown is announced, a measure to limit entry to the country may be constitutional, but this is not the case. 

The government announced Monday that the number of Israelis allowed to arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport will be slashed from 2,000 a day to 200 starting next week, citing authorities’ difficulty in enforcing coronavirus quarantines for those returning.

The decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Transportation Minister Miri Regev will have arrivals limited to urgent humanitarian cases until a solution is found. The government called on Israelis planning to depart the country in the coming days to “to consider the necessity of departure in light of the expect restrictions on their return.”

Israel closed its borders on January 25, giving just 24 hours notice of its decision. While the initiative – meant to halt the import of new coronavirus variants, potentially threatening Israel’s hugely successful vaccination campaign – was supposed to be in effect for less than a week, the closure has since been extended twice. The next potential reopening date is March 6. 

While a few rescue flights have been able to land, those on board needed special permission to return, given by a governmental “exceptions committee.” Until this week, all travelers were being forced to quarantine in designated hotels for 10 days. 

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