Israel on verge of reopening airport in advance of elections

Cabinet to decide on lightening restrictions on Israelis returning home, despite fear of new mutations.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

With national elections only three weeks away, the Cabinet is expected to vote Tuesday on a decision to reopen Ben Gurion International Airport and allow tens of thousands of Israelis to return home in time for the March 23 national election, Ynet reported.

Israel shut down most international passenger flights in January in a bid to keep the UK and South African mutations of the coronavirus out of the country.

Currently, a Cabinet-appointed exceptions committee has to approve requests of Israelis who are currently abroad to return to Israel, with only two hundred being allowed to return daily despite a backlog of an estimated 40,000 requests.

However, the IDF unit tasked with tracking virus threats warned of a new New York mutation, a strain of the virus that has spread rapidly and is known to cause re-infection of the virus to those who have already recovered from it, Kan News reported.

The IDF said that due to the close population and aviation ties between Israel and New York, “there is a targeted risk of the strain entering Israel, and it is recommended that action be taken to reduce it.”

At present, only Israelis who can prove that they have been vaccinated against coronavirus are allowed to return, but that restriction is due to be dropped.

Instead, returning Israelis will have the choice of quarantining in a government-run coronavirus hotel, or receiving an electronic handcuff transmitter that allows their location to be tracked – ensuring that they comply with coronavirus isolation rules or risk a heavy fine if the break quarantine.

With that change, up to 3,000 Israelis will be allowed to return home each day.

The Cabinet is also expected to open up departing flights, but only for those who have been vaccinated and only to specific destinations in Europe and at least one destination on the west coast of the United States, Kan reported.

The exceptions committee has come under harsh criticism after an Israeli couple, the Ivanovs, were approved to return to Israel from the Ukraine, but their 6-year-old son was denied, with the committee claiming the child was already in Israel.

“But he is with us here in Ukraine,” the frustrated parents told Kan News, adding that “no one [in the government] is interested – there is no permit for the child.”

The Ivanovs got the bureaucratic runaround with the Transportation Ministry claiming that the Population Authority is responsible for the incorrect information, while the Population Authority told the couple to contact the exceptions committee.