AG asked to stop airport closure from serving Netanyahu re-election

Liberman rules out post-election mergers deciding PM

The departure hall at the almost empty Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on January 25, 2021.  (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
The departure hall at the almost empty Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on January 25, 2021.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, currently serving as acting Justice Minister, announced on Saturday that he will require a representative from the Justice Ministry to attend the Ben-Gurion Airport Exceptions Committee in order to ensure equal criteria for allowing passengers to enter the country. 
He noted that he will not approve an extension to the Exceptions Committee regulations that end on March 3 until then. 
Transportation Minister Miri Regev (Likud) attacked Gantz, blaming him for being "disconnected" and not making the request earlier. 
"I invite you to send over a name tonight for a representative from the Justice Ministry who will join the committee and will see first-hand how it works in a professional and transparent manner," Regev stated.
Earlier on Saturday, opposition heads Yair Lapid and Avigdor Liberman wrote to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, arguing that the airport closure must be stopped because it will help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to win the March 23 election.
Lapid and Liberman reacted to a Channel 12 report on Friday night that found that 90% of the people who are being allowed into the country despite the closure, are haredim (ultra-Orthodox), who support parties that are in the pro-Netanyahu bloc.
Lapid argued in a letter to Mandelblit that the Exceptions Committee, led by Regev, is being used by the prime minister to control the flow of those coming into the country with the intention to help determine the outcome of the election.
“What is happening at Ben-Gurion Airport is not an Exceptions Committee, but an Elections Committee,” Lapid said. “Only supporters of Netanyahu, [United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov] Litzman, and [Otzma Yehudit head Itamar] Ben-Gvir receive permission to come in.”
Gantz intends to demand at Sunday’s cabinet meeting that changes in the current policies be enacted to prevent discrimination.
Liberman drafted the 25 signatures of MKs needed for an emergency session of the Knesset to discuss the controversy.
Prime ministerial candidate Gideon Saar called for all Israeli citizens abroad to be allowed to return to Israel safely, with inspections and isolation as required. MK Zvi Hauser of his New Hope Party called on the government to adopt a bill he submitted in the previous Knesset that would allow each Israeli “stuck” outside the country to vote.
“There is no logic in continuing the violation of civil rights and the return of Israelis should not be conditioned on a politicized “who you know” committee,” Sa’ar said.
Regev responded by accusing Channel 12 of “fake news and lies.” She insisted that the airport closure exceptions were being handled professionally and that plenty of secular Israelis were also arriving. Shas leader Arye Deri accused the channel of “an ugly campaign against haredim.”
United Torah Judaism faction chairman Yitzhak Pindrus went further, saying that he opposed closing the airport to begin with, but Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu prevented him from keeping the airport open. He accused Lapid and Liberman of “hypocrisy and incitement.”
Meanwhile, Liberman and Lapid continued their political alliance over the weekend. Liberman said the next government must be formed by whichever opposition party head receives the most votes in the election, which all polls indicate would be Lapid.
Liberman spoke amid speculation that Sa’ar and Yamina head Naftali Bennett would join forces after the election to create a larger faction than Yesh Atid to receive the mandate from President Reuven Rivlin to form a government. 
“To replace Netanyahu, everyone must give up their ego and if not, they are serving him,” Liberman told Channel 12.
After saying for weeks that he would not sit in a government under Lapid, Sa’ar declined to answer a question on KAN-TV on Saturday night whether he would rule out a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office with Lapid.
The Likud responded that “the choice in the election is between a rotation of four prime ministers in Lapid, Sa’ar, Bennett and Liberman or a strong stable government led by Netanyahu.”
Hagay Hacohen and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.