Israelis will once again be able to “fly the friendly skies” starting this coming Sunday, assuming the government does not find a new way to restrict travel in and out of Ben Gurion International Airport.
The High Court of Justice has ruled the government’s restrictions on how many passengers can enter and exit the country through the airport are unconstitutional.
The ruling came in response to a petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, which argued the limitations violated the basic constitutional right to enter and exit the country, among other basic rights.
When the restrictions expire this weekend, the 3,000-passenger per day cap on returning citizens cannot be renewed, according to the court ruling. Ditto for the requirement for a special entry permit for travelers who have never had the coronavirus and then recovered – which would provide them with lifesaving antibodies against the virus – and those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Judges Esther Hayut, Neal Hendel and Yitzhak Amit said their decision was reinforced by the fact that Israel is the only democratic nation in the world that has banned its citizens from entering the country in such a way. The restrictions “violate the basic constitutional right to enter and exit Israel, and others’ rights at the core of the democratic fabric of life,” they wrote.
“The threat of the coronavirus and its different variants isn’t expected to disappear in the foreseeable future, despite the success of the vaccination drive,” the court added in its ruling.
Coronavirus Commissioner Professor Nachman Ash criticized the ruling, saying it will lead to “high morbidity” and the entry of “dangerous mutations” into Israel.
“We have taken so many steps to prevent this, and it is a shame now that we are seeing such favorable morbidity data,” Ash said. “The decision of the High court could take Israel into a new wave of infection.”