Police state? Authorities say ready ‘to keep Israelis in their homes’

The emergency plan would also see the army deployed to assist the police with 24 battalions.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A senior police commander said the force was ready “to keep Israelis in their homes if that is what the government and the Health Ministry decide,” The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.

Following a marathon series of meetings on Monday with health, public safety and defense officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered new restrictions and greater enforcement of the current lockdown, but stopped short of declaring an emergency and ordering a total curfew – a step Israel’s Health Ministry has been calling for to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“We have a state of emergency plan in place – and if there is a decision to do it, and we are required to move forward, we can and will,” Yishai Shalem, head of the operational department for the Israel police, told the Post.

The emergency plan would also see the army deployed to assist the police to enforce the quarantine in all populated areas.

If a full lockdown is imposed, only food stores and pharmacies would remain open, with residents restricted to going out only for supplies and otherwise remain at home. People with pets would be allowed to walk their animals but only within 50 meters of their homes.

“It’s not a military state,” Shalem said. “We want the public to participate. If they act properly, then we will not need to intervene.”

IDF Spokesman Hedi Zilberman said that in the first phase the Army will allocate eight battalions to assist the police and, if necessary, supply another 16 battalions in a second phase if and when the government decides.

Zilberman told Kan News that soldiers will be paired with police officers and will not have legal authority over the civilians.

“Soldiers do not need to be armed for such a mission,” Zilberman added.

With the education system shut down and many businesses closed, Netanyahu and health officials have repeatedly complained that too many Israelis are not following Health Ministry guidelines to stay at home and not congregate.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said a weeklong total curfew was needed to help stop the exponential spread of the virus.

Health Ministry statistics released Tuesday revealed a 30 percent single day jump to 1,656 confirmed coronavirus infections, 418 more than Monday. Experts fear the country’s health system could soon be inundated with as many as 10,000 infected people.

Israel’s national police force said Tuesday it has been enforcing Ministry of Health orders and has opened 135 cases against people who violated quarantine conditions and 21 investigations of people suspected of distributing fake news.

To date, police have checked up on some 20,000 people to ensure they are complying with home-quarantine conditions.