Arab party delays vote on Shin Bet tracking of Omicron patients

Joint List opposes setting any precedent that could potentially lead to monitoring people for non-COVID reasons.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

The Arab Joint List shot down efforts to schedule a Knesset vote on allowing the Shin Bet security service to track Omicron patients on Monday. The measure, which is supported by the cabinet, requires Knesset approval.

The Shin Bet began monitoring Omicron patients on Sunday after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said the security service could do so provisionally.

The Joint List opposes setting any precedent that that could potentially lead to monitoring people for non-COVID reasons.

The governing coalition and opposition parties agreed not to raise new bills in the Knesset during Chanukah without the agreement of every parliamentary faction. The Joint List, which is led by MK Ayman Odeh, refused to let the issue be added to the Knesset’s agenda.

Parliamentary debate on the tracking will therefore take place after Chanukah.

Ra’am, the Arab party that is part of the coalition, supports Shin Bet tracking.

Although Israel’s High Court of Justice has previously ruled that such tracking could only take place with Knesset authorization, it’s expected that Mandelblit will allow the monitoring to continue without Knesset approval until after the Chanukah holiday. Previous Knesset authorization for the Shin Bet expired in July.

Shin Bet surveillance technology determines who an infected person came in contact with by matching his location against other cell phones.

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Advocates say the Shin Bet’s resources should be used to stem the fight against the new COVID variant. Critics say monitoring raises privacy issues and goes beyond the Shin Bet’s mandate of fighting terror.

On Tuesday, Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center announced that two of its doctors tested positive for the Omicron variant, bringing Israel’s number of confirmed cases to four. Another 34individuals are suspected of having Omicron but their diagnoses remain unconfirmed.