The Israeli Public Emergency Council for the Covid19 Crisis
To:

Prime Minister, Mr. Naftali Bennett
Foreign Minister and alternate Prime Minister, Mr. Yair Lapid
Health Minister, Mr. Nitzan Horowitz
Justice Minister, Mr. Gideon Saar
Treasury Minister, Mr. Avigdor Lieberman
Ministers and Members of the Knesset

Cessation of the Declared State of Emergency in Israel in the Absence of an Emergency Situation

Honorable representatives,

Since June 2020, there exists a law in Israel establishing a state of emergency, providing special powers for the Israeli government and which limits parliamentary checks on the legislative branch.

Declaring a state of emergency is not a trivial matter: special powers to deal with the novel coronavirus (Temporary Provisions – 2020) grants, as the name implies, extensive powers to the executive branch, including substantial restrictions on the population. These powers include imposing restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of the individual, which should be reserved for emergencies only.

According to the Ministry of Health, the number of citizens who have tested positive for Covid19 is declining and is at a weekly average of 15 positive confirmations per day. The number of individuals showing symptoms is about 200, with about 70 people who are hospitalized, and the number of patients in critical condition is about 20. In the whole of last week, 2 Covid19 patients died. Thus, in Israel, where the mortality rate is about 125 people per day, Covid19 accounts for 0.2% of daily mortality. This indicates an extremely low morbidity, during a time when the economy is fully open, the education system is in full operation, and without the use of a green or purple pass.

Under the law, the government has the authority to declare a state of emergency if “the government is convinced that there is a real risk of extensive spreading of the virus and significant harm to public health.” It is clear that in light of the low morbidity data, despite full opening of the economy, there is currently no real risk of extensive spreading of the virus, and accordingly, there is currently no significant harm to public health. The inpatient load of the illness has become negligible, with the closure of almost all Covid19 wards.

We emphasize that the complete extinction of the virus should not be expected: it has been clarified by many experts that the virus is expected to remain for many years in an endemic (permanent) form as one of the usual respiratory viruses. The mere existence of the virus does not justify the continued existence of the state of emergency, and the authorities have to deal with it as with any other virus. The state of emergency was declared before we had effective tools to combat the virus. More than a year into the pandemic, and after an unprecedented mobilization of the Israeli public to be vaccinated with a vaccine that is 95% effective, according to the literature, there is no longer justification to continue discourse of an emergency.

Ahead of the government’s upcoming discussion on the continuation of the state of emergency, which will take place on June 20, 2021, a public health service report was submitted to the Ministry of Health regarding the need for an emergency state. Subsequently and bizarrely, despite the improvement in morbidity indices and the beneficial effect of the vaccine on morbidity and mortality in at-risk populations, the Ministry continued with tactics that have accompanied the entire year of the pandemic, of fear mongering, doomsday prophecies, spreading of threatening anecdotes and partial data, with a clear aim to deceive. The report lacked a broad perspective and recent studies carried out by the best experts in the world. For example, the opinion given in the Ministry’s report ignores the Ministry’s own report of unnecessary hospitalizations of Covid19 patients and the resulting fact that the health system has never been close to collapse. The opinion presents 35% of the Israeli population as unprotected due to non-vaccination, ignoring asymptomatic natural infection, and the survey which found between 20% – 30% of children have already contracted and acquired natural immunity. The opinion ignores many studies showing that Covid19 is less dangerous for children than influenza, that child mortality in Israel was not due to the virus, and that the issue of long Covid is negligible, and may not be different from any winter virus, and even ignores the fact that all the “threatening” variants which, exploited by the ministry, created great public anxiety, did not cause a significant decrease in the effectiveness of vaccines in the world or in control of the pandemic.

The need, if any, to amend regulations or laws to prevent the spread of the virus, does not in itself justify a declaration of an emergency situation, and can be handled with normal legislative and regulatory procedures, as is appropriate in a democratic regime. A “warlike” emergency state cannot be maintained out of concern of another variant that will defeat the vaccine, just as an emergency situation cannot be maintained for fear of an earthquake or war. If a virus that can “bypass” the current vaccines or a virus with a significantly increased lethality is detected, an emergency situation can be declared anew, taking into account situational data.

The Ministry of Health repeatedly returns to a threatening, intimidating, strict approach – for no medical, epidemiological, ethical or legal reason. It appears that the Ministry’s management of the reflects an interest in preserving the elevated status it acquired during the crisis, while placing the war on Covid19 above all other considerations, without examining cost and relevance, and neglecting fundamental considerations of health, economy, welfare, education and democracy.

If the government believes there are conditions for declaring a continuing state of emergency despite data from the Ministry of Health of extremely low morbidity that is no different from other viral diseases, it is incumbent upon the Ministry to show transparency and present objective threshold values to establish the state of emergency.

In light of the data currently available, there is simply no justification for maintaining a medical emergency state in Israel, and accordingly, there is no legal justification therefor. We call on you to act immediately to end the legality of the state of emergency, and to return the governmental system in Israel to the necessary checks and balances of a democratic state.

Signed,

The Public Emergency Council for the Covid19 Crisis