By Amit Acco, Partner |

The Israeli government has decided, that as of midnight on Monday, January 25, 2021, all passenger flights from and to Ben Gurion Airport will be suspended amidst fears over the growing number of coronavirus mutations.

The restrictions applied at first until Jan 2021, and on the 4th of February was extended until February 21.

Travel to Israel (inbound):  

Any person wishing to travel to Israel will have to successfully apply to the Exemptions Committee prior to their journey. This includes Foreign and Israeli nationals.  Legitimate reasons to be considered by the Exemption Committee: attending the funeral of an immediate relative, accompanying a body to Israel for burial, urgent medical treatment including women in their final trimester of pregnancy, the need to attend an immediate relative in distress, and other compassionate reasons, and to take part in legal proceedings.

Travel from Israel (outbound):  

Those allowed to depart from Israel:

  1. Foreign nationals, not including permanent residents of Israel. This means that foreign workers with a B-1 work visa and their dependents holding B-2 visas will be allowed departure from Israel.
  2. Israeli nationals residing abroad. Proof of permanent residence abroad will be required to be presented to the Exemptions Committee.
  3. Any person that has successfully applied to the Exemptions Committee.
  4. Professional sportspeople will be allowed to travel overseas to take part in official international tournaments.

According to the order:

Inbound Flights: According to the order, all commercial flights are barred from entering Israeli airspace or landing at Ben Gurion Airport, with the exception of emergency flights, Cargo planes, and flights that goes through the Israeli airspace without landing.

Outbound Flights: According to the order, all departing commercial flights are also canceled with the exception of private planes registered in Israel with up to 9 passengers capacity.

Exemption Committee: A special committee was set up on January 31st to examine exemption requests for those who need to arrive in Israel on humanitarian reasons during the flight suspension period, without giving specific criteria. The committee is headed by Minister Yuval Steinitz (or someone on his behalf). The committee will be composed of representatives from the Ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Health, Transportation, and the Ministry for Diaspora, Aliyah, and Absorption.

Corona state-run motels: The cabinet also decided that as of Tuesday, February 2nd, to reimpose mandatory isolation in state run Motels on those allowed to enter by the committee.

Closure of Land Cross Borders with Egypt and Israel: In addition to the flight suspension,  as of January 27, Israel closed its land border crossing from Jordan, Egypt. The 3 crossing points from Jordan: Jordan River Crossing, Allenby Bridge and Yitzhak Rabin Crossing. The Allenby Bridge, located just about 5 kilometers east of Jericho, is the only option available to West Bank Palestinians for travel abroad or return from such travel to the West Bank.

Commentary by Government Officials

The Head of Public Health Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Elrai Price, said at the Knesset:

“The six days that we have decided to close Ben Gurion Airport will not be enough. We will have to extend the closure by at least a few weeks to buy time for the vaccination campaign”

The decision prohibits the entry and exit of both foreign nationals (including those with a valid B-1 work visa, B-2 Dependent visas, and residents) and Israeli nationals. Those wishing to enter or exit Israel will require special permission to be provided on a “humanitarian basis”. The Director-General of the Ministry of Health, in addition to the Director-General of the Ministry of Transportation, will be entitled to approve these exceptions – for a special humanitarian or personal need.

For the first time ever, the ban will include a block on the entry of new immigrants under the Law of Return, despite the objections of Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata. Also, It is the first time since the start of the pandemic that Israel prevented its own citizens from entering the country.

Israeli Airspace

Transport Minister Miri Regev clarified this point during today’s Cabinet meeting where she stated:

For the first time, we will not allow Israelis and Jews to immigrate to Israel unless it is a matter of life or death. When the skies are closed, there will be only humanitarian flights made by private planes.”. According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the measure would “hermetically” seal the skies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday:

“We are closing the country hermetically. Just in this week of closing the skies, we will vaccinate another million Israelis”

Sources: Ynet, The Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post, News 13, News 12