Banning travel between Israel and an increasing number of countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic will not hurt its international standing significantly, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid argued on Monday.
“I was asked in recent days if declaring a long line of countries red cause diplomatic harm,” Lapid said at a Yesh Atid faction meeting. “The answer is it does, but we know how to manage it.”
The Foreign Ministry speaks to each individual country to explain its considerations, he explained.
“The countries of the world understand us, because they’re getting hit much worse than we are,” Lapid added.
The foreign minister’s remarks came hours after Israel declared the US, Canada and eight other countries “red,” in order to try to stem the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19. Israelis are not permitted to travel to those, except for special cases, and anyone returning from those countries must quarantine for at least seven days, even if they are fully vaccinated.
The ban on all foreigners from entering Israel, with special exceptions, remains in place.
Emmanuel Navon, author of The Star and the Scepter, a history of Israel’s foreign relations, agreed with Lapid’s assessment.
Other countries “know about omicron, and they know that the decision is not arbitrary,” Navon stated.
Lapid also argued that the decision to ban Israelis from traveling to more countries was not taken out of political considerations, an apparent hint at the first wave of COVID-19. Then-vice president of the US Mike Pence asked then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to ban travel between Israel and the US, so the government banned all travel abroad in order not to single out the Americans.