After his obituary was mistakenly published, Mark Twain famously said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Perhaps the same could be said of Israel’s Green Passport.
News went like wildfire last week after the Israeli media outlet, Kan Broadcaster, reported that the government is considering dropping the requirement for the Green Passport from Feb. 1. It was further fueled by a tweet from Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman who said there is no epidemiological reasoning behind the Green Passport.
Medical experts and doctors in Israel have lined up in recent weeks to argue against this system of limitations based on vaccination and recovery status, saying it was pointless with the Omicron variant spreading equally through the population.
The Jerusalem Post joined the crowd in a Jan. 23 editorial entitled “Israel must move beyond COVID-19 Green Pass.”
“New ways must be found to create environments that are as safe as possible,” the paper said.
“The focus must now move to protecting those most at risk… But the general public needs to be free to return to as normal a life and routine as possible,” the editorial says.
But the piece de resistance came when news anchor Arad Nir declared on Friday’s Channel 12 News panel: “The time has come to announce that it’s over.”
“Omicron is not a serious illness,” he said. “Enough with the isolations. Enough with the masks. Enough with the green pass. The emotional cost and general health impact of these is worse than the virus itself.”
Channel 12 has been a strong proponent of the government’s policies, so this was possibly the biggest blow to the Green Passport.
SO COME FEB. 1, WHAT WILL BE?
You would think that all this talk – and with Green Passport privileges being dropped at schools from Thursday – has taken the sting out of the QR code.
However, one Corona Cabinet minister, Zeev Elkin, said in a radio interview – not so fast.
"Yes, the vaccines are less effective against Omicron, but they protect against serious illness," he noted. Then referring to European nations who are moving forward with vaccine mandates, Elkin said, "The Green Passport is an international thing – and I wouldn't be so enthusiastic about canceling it."
In addition, the possibility that it will just go quietly away come Feb. 1 does not jive with a major piece of legislation that is under consideration this week: a law that would instead set the Green Passport in stone.
In its place might come something more draconian, according to its opponents: the Special Powers Law, which would extend the state of emergency until the end of the year.
The Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee spent the past two days debating the final wording of the legislation – and, according to Knesset Member Eli Avidar of Yisrael Beytenu, it is being presented to the entire Knesset for a vote tonight.
"This law has no justification," he said in a video posted on his Twitter feed. "It has no place in a democratic society."
At least two other Knesset members objected to the law during the committee hearing today.
“History will not forgive us if we pass this into law,” said Gadi Yevarkan of Likud.
Yevarkan has been speaking against this law and use of the Green Passport as a violation of human rights, especially as experts have come forward to question its epidemiological value.
Oren Pasternak – a lawyer who has been present at most of the committee hearings to argue against the Special Powers Law – said that revisions won’t make much of a difference.
“The law should not pass,” he said.
Pasternak said the law would set dangerous precedents that will affect generations to come. The law, he explained, concentrates all COVID-related decision-making in the hands of a few people in the governing coalition: the Corona Cabinet.
“We are not down the slippery slope – we are at the bottom of the slippery slope,” Pasternak said after the committee meeting.
The legislation defines “a special medical situation” in which the Corona Cabinet can make sweeping decisions based on health data – such as restricting travel and entry into certain places – if it has “reasonable grounds to believe” a state of emergency exists.
SIMILAR LEGISLATION WAS PANNED BY GOVERNMENT MEMBERS WHO SAT IN THE OPPOSITION IN 2020
The proposed legislation caused alarm when a similar legislation was first raised under Benjamin Netanyahu’s government – but many of the former opponents are now poised to vote to pass the same type of law.
"It cannot be that when it was Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) and (former Health Minister Yuli) Edelstein it was not democratic and now that its (Naftali) Bennett and Nitzan Horowitz it is democratic. If this law passes today, we will lose the moral authority to judge for ourselves in the future if this is democratic," he warned.
Avidar noted in his video that many of the current coalition members voted against it, calling it a danger to democracy, draconian and tyrannical.
Here is what some of them said:
“The biggest threat to the State of Israel is not COVID,” former opposition leader and now Foreign Minister and alternate-Prime Minister Yair Lapid tweeted on June 8, 2020. “The biggest threat to the State of Israel is that we stop being a democracy. There has never been such a thing. In our worst times, the Yom Kippur War, in the greatest economic crises, we maintained Israeli democracy.”
Current Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz wrote this on July 6, 2020: “Bibi is obsessed with passing the ‘special powers law’ in a hurry. This is a dangerous law which allows the government to declare a state of emergency and under this declaration to pass regulations, including extremely severe restrictions. And all this without the prior approval of the Knesset. This is [Turkish President Recep] Erdogan’s law.”
We will see how they vote this week if the law truly makes it to the full plenary.
ALL ISRAEL NEWS wrote about the proposed law before revisions were made.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS