COVID-19 in Israel – Legal disputes over the Second wave

Israel – with a population of 9 million – has reported 99,599 coronavirus cases and 795 deaths. Businesses have been reopening subject to health regulations and policies, schools and universities are planned to open under restrictions after the summer vacation, and culture events will reopen soon.

Yet, the second wave consequences and rapid increase of reported cases have created a unique legal political atmosphere.

Recently, Israel’s Parliament “The Knesset” has amended the COVID-19 regulations and granted The Cabinet the authority to declare a state of emergency due to the coronavirus crisis, imposing restrictions in order to prevent the renewed outbreak of the pandemic, both nationally and locally (Green & Red zones).

The Knesset has retained the right to block any new regulation via its committees, subject to certain formalities, with vague guidelines.

It seems, the tense between the need for powerful measures to monitor the pandemic on the one hand, and defending civil rights, privacy and economic necessities on the other hand, is stepping towards a higher level.

Granting extreme power both to the local municipalities and enforcement authorities, in addition to the current surveillance & cellphone-tracking of people infected by coronavirus, has pushed Privacy watchdogs to the corner.

Still, The Cabinet will refrain from imposing restrictions to prevent demonstrations, prayer services & religious ceremonies, but it could set conditions for holding them.

Hence, subject to a professional opinion submitted by the Ministry of Health, The Cabinet is authorized to declare a state of emergency if it is convinced that there is a real risk of a nationwide outbreak of the coronavirus and of significant harm to public health. In that case no real restriction can prevent nearly any measure taken.

One may also note the no role has been given to the new תחתית הטופס

Corona virus Committee, probably due to political disputes, based on previous blockage steps imposed by it over regulations issued by the Government.

A great power with, some may say, very little constitutional checks and balances. Obviously, it is lest to the Courts to step in and guard the Constitutional rights.

The outcome of this scenario –remains to be seen.