The High Court was right to allow Israelis into the country to vote

Not allowing Israelis to return to the country, especially ahead of an election, was an untenable situation, and the High Court ruling was justified and just.

Israeli High Court hearing on whether Netanyahu can form next government despite indictment he faces. (December 31, 2019) (photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
Israeli High Court hearing on whether Netanyahu can form next government despite indictment he faces. (December 31, 2019)
(photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
The High Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that the government’s restrictions on citizens entering the country are unconstitutional and must end this Saturday, three days before the election. The justices issued their “open the skies” ruling in response to a petition by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel against the government’s cap on 3,000 returning citizens per day at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Chief Justice Esther Hayut, together with justices Neal Hendel and Yitzhak Amit, wrote in their ruling that the government’s limitations “violate the basic constitutional right to enter and exit Israel.”
The petition was presented to the High Court after thousands of Israelis found themselves unable to return to the country since the closure of the airport on January 25 due to the stringent measures passed by the government to prevent the entry of coronavirus variants. 
Not allowing Israelis to return to the country, especially ahead of an election, was an untenable situation, and the High Court ruling was justified and just.
Nevertheless, it was slammed by coronavirus commissioner Prof. Nachman Ash, who warned that it would increase the spread of COVID-19 and dangerous variants. “We have taken many steps to prevent this, and it is a pity that we are now putting people at risk,” Ash said. “The High Court’s decision may bring the State of Israel closer to a wave of high morbidity right now.”
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch also criticized the ruling, tweeting: “The High Court is taking responsibility for the risk of mutations entering Israel. Good luck to us!”
While Ash and Kisch are clearly concerned about the country regressing from the success of its national vaccination program (nearly half of Israel’s population of nine million have received two vaccinations), they can no longer prevent Israelis from returning to Israel. But that does not mean that precautions should not be taken.
The government must afford Israelis their basic right to freedom of movement and to return to their home country, while making sure that they are tested, vaccinated or quarantined when they return.
While the measures adopted by the government to halt the spread of the virus were over the top and unconstitutional, as the High Court ruled, Israelis must continue to abide by the rules to ensure that the pandemic does not spin out of control again.
COVID-19 regulations must apply equally to all sectors of Israeli society. There has to be equality for all when it comes to enforcement, and this is where the outgoing government has consistently failed. 
“We fear that decisions were made while giving preference to those linked to the corridors of power,” the Movement for Quality Government wrote in its petition to the High Court.
This is not the time for protekzia, the infamous Israeli habit of using connections to your advantage. As Emily Schrader, a research fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute, wrote in The Jerusalem Post, “Granting legal ‘exemptions’ to friends and family will continue to lead Israel down the path of corruption and inequality. We must implement regulations on the government to limit its influence, we must have zero tolerance for cronyism, and we must demand complete transparency from the government.”
As we approach Israel’s fourth election in two years on March 23, the High Court’s message should be clear to all parties: While we support measures to stem the spread of the pandemic, the rules must apply equally to all Israelis, without favoring some over others and without setting a quota on the number of Israelis allowed into the country.
With just over a week before we begin celebrating Passover, it is worth remembering that key sentence in the Haggadah, “In every generation, a person is obligated to see oneself as if they too left Egypt.” 
The challenge of Passover is to appreciate the fact that because Jews were once slaves in Egypt, in order to experience true liberation we must appreciate our freedom and live accordingly without oppressing others.
We have all suffered under COVID-19, from deaths and illness, lockdowns and quarantines and from tough directives that now include Green Passports and electronic bracelets. 
But if we are to unshackle ourselves from the oppression of this dangerous virus, we must cross the virtual Red Sea together, following the rules and regulations equally and equitably, as one people.