Israeli cabinet unanimously approves phone-tracking app bill

Benjamin Netanyahu / Photo: Knesset Spokesperson Adina Walman , דוברות הכנסת

As new Covid-19 cases soar, the Knesset must now approve a law allowing the Shin Bet, despite opposition from its chief, to track citizens.

Israel's cabinet has unanimously approved the bill which authorizes the General Security Services (Shin Bet) to track Israelis in the battle against the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic. The cabinet was convened in an emergency session to discuss the subject as the daily rate of new infections has risen towards 500 in the past few days.

The bill, which must now pass the Knesset to be enacting as a law, was approved despite opposition voiced earlier this week by the Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman who felt it was not appropriate for his organization to track people using a civilian app. The new bill authorizes the Shin Bet to assist the Ministry of Health in informing citizens who were tracked as being near somebody who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

The bill also gives the cabinet the right to declare a state of emergency due to Covid-19 but the Knesset can cancel such a declaration with a simple majority. Each state of emergency will be for 30 days but can be extended an unlimited amount of times.

Israel is the only country in the western world that has been using its security services to track citizens for the virus. However, the High Court of Justice ruled that the practice could not continue unless it was enshrined in the law.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that there was an improvement in the wearing of masks but he wanted to see all Israelis wearing their masks out of a feeling of mutual support. He hoped that a new digital app to track virus carriers and those who came into contact with them would be ready "within weeks rather than months," but until then we would need to rely on the Shin Bet's services and the new law to prevent the spread of the disease.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 24, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Benjamin Netanyahu / Photo: Knesset Spokesperson Adina Walman , דוברות הכנסת
Benjamin Netanyahu / Photo: Knesset Spokesperson Adina Walman , דוברות הכנסת
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