As Netanyahu Heads To U.S., Israel Goes Back Into Covid-19 Lockdown


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced protests on Sunday after his cabinet reimposed a coronavirus lockdown shortly before he left for a trip to the United States, with protesters accusing him of “campaigning” in the U.S. as the nation struggles to contain the virus.

Key Facts

Cases in Israel have risen dramatically in recent months, with 4,158 new cases in the last day after a record high of 4,429 cases was reported on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Netanyahu said at a press conference that health officials “raised a red flag” about hospitals becoming overburdened by the case surge, thus prompting the cabinet to vote to re-enter a temporary lockdown.

Israelis will be restricted from traveling beyond a 500-meter radius from their houses and crowds will be limited to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors, but markets and pharmacies will remain open with decisions still to come on places of worship, according to Haaretz.

The decision comes at an inauspicious time for Netanyahu as he is set to travel to Washington, D.C. to sign a peace accord with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in which the two Arab nations will officially recognize and normalize relations with the world’s only Jewish state.

Demonstrators have gathered outside Ben-Gurion Airport in Jerusalem in an attempt to block Netanyahu from making the trip, arguing that it is hypocritical of Netanyahu to close down the country and leave it on the same day, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Key Background

Travel between the U.S. and Israel is currently heavily restricted. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have a level 3 travel advisory in place for Israel, asserting that the “COVID-19 risk in Israel is high” and recommending travelers “avoid all nonessential international travel to Israel.” The state department urges Americans to “reconsider travel to Israel,” noting that “an entry ban on all foreigners, including U.S. citizens, remains in place.”

Chief Critic

“The people are collapsing and the defendant [Netanyahu], who fails to manage the crisis, closes the country and runs away,” protest group Crime Minister said on Saturday. “We will not forgive the defendant for the economic and health catastrophe as a result of political and survival considerations at the expense of the public.”

What To Watch For

Netanyahu and his staff will reportedly be held to extremely strict measures during their three-day trip to the U.S. According to the Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu staffers will only be allowed to fly if they test negative for coronavirus and will be required to wear masks and social distance on the flight. Staff and reporters will all lodge in the same hotel and will not be allowed to travel in D.C., and will return to Israel promptly after an official signing ceremony at the White House on Tuesday has concluded.

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