“We are sealing our skies, except for limited exceptions, in order to prevent the entry of the virus mutations,” Netanyahu said.
By David Isaac, World Israel News
Israel’s government agreed on Sunday to stop flights to and from Ben Gurion Airport, effectively “sealing our skies,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. The closure will begin Monday at midnight and last through the end of January.
The cabinet approved the following steps:
1. A ban on incoming planes to Israel except for cargo flights, firefighting flights and flights for emergency medical evacuation
2. A temporary restriction on permits for operating Israeli airlines
3. A reduction in exceptions for departure by air from Israel so as to include the following cases only: Medical treatment, judicial proceedings to which the person is a party or must participate in, or the funeral of a close relative.
“We are sealing our skies, except for limited exceptions, in order to prevent the entry of the virus mutations, and also to ensure that we progress quickly with our vaccination campaign… so that more Israelis are vaccinated soon,” Netanyahu said at the meeting.
Israel has already encountered the effects of the UK variant in which one man infected 700 people. In another case, a traveler returning from Dubai to Israel infected 180. It is unknown if that individual was carrying a variant of the disease.
The UK variant is expected to be the dominant strain in Israel in a few weeks. So far, only the UK strain and the South African strain have been found in Israel, according to a member of Israel’s coronavirus task force.
However, the South African strain has raised fears in Israel and around the world given that its mutations center around the spike protein and may enable it to evade antibodies created by the new vaccines.
Netanyahu pitched the closure in a positive light. “We are ahead of the whole world; no country has done what we are going to do now. We are hermetically sealing the state.”
“Only in this week of the closing of the sky, another million Israelis will be vaccinated,” he added.
In a decision opposed by the Minister of Aliyah and Integration, the cabinet also blocked the entry of new immigrants, (or “Olim”), for the first time in the history of the state. According to Israel’s Law of Return, every Jew has the right to come to Israel and claim citizenship. The law is considered to be a central tenet of the Jewish State.