Family members of new immigrants to be allowed to visit Israel despite entry ban

MKs reach compromise with Interior Ministry to allow entry to close relatives of those in country for less than 4 years; quarantine rules to apply; takes effect in 4 weeks

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

People wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport on March 10, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
People wearing face masks for fear of the coronavirus arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport on March 10, 2020 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Interior Ministry agreed Wednesday to ease coronavirus restrictions and allow entry into the country for first-degree relatives of new immigrants who have come to Israel within the last four years.

The measure, a joint proposal by MKs Yorai Lahav Hertzanu from Yesh Atid, Michal Cotler-Wunsh of Blue and White, and Likud’s David Bitan, is set to be introduced in four weeks.

Speaking at the Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee, which he chairs, Bitan said Wednesday morning that he had received confirmation of the authorization from Population and Immigration Authority director Shlomo Mor-Yosef.

According to Bitan, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, whose ministry oversees the immigration authority, has also given his authorization for the move, but requested that its implementation only take place in a month, “due to the current virus situation in the US and Europe.”

Likud MK David Bitan at the Knesset on January 15, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussil/Flash90)

Currently, only Israelis and foreigners with a residency visa are allowed to fly into the country. Those landing from so-called “red countries” — those with high coronavirus rates — must observe a 14-day quarantine.

Additionally, a limited class of non-citizens, primarily first-degree family members, are allowed into Israel for lifecycle events such as births and weddings, with each case evaluated individually by the Interior Ministry.

At the same time, Israel continues to allow new immigrants into the country.

The quarantine period will also apply for family members of immigrants, Bitan said.

Yesh Atid party member Yorai Lahav-Hertzano in the Knesset, May 14, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The ministry’s agreement was reached after Bitan proposed a compromise between Lahav Hertzanu’s initial proposal to allow entry for families of anyone who immigrated to Israel in the last 10 years and the immigration authority’s preference of just two years.

Speaking to The Times of Israel after the announcement in the committee meeting, Lahav Hertanu thanked Bitan for “joining me in raising this important cause and reaching a compromise with the government offices,”

“Immigrants have fewer support systems here than I do, and I immediately realized the importance of finding a solution that would allow them a visit from their loved ones. I know that having my family here is a great source of strength for me through this lockdown, and I hope now that will be more available to new immigrants as well,” he said.

MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh (Blue and White) at a Knesset panel on anti-Semitism on social media, October 14, 2020 (Screenshot)

Cotler-Wunsh, who also saw success in her previous push for family members to be allowed to visit for life-cycle events, welcomed the latest move and said it came “after raising the issue in every possible way and asking for a comprehensive and holistic solution that acknowledges the importance of aliya and the additional COVID-19 related implications for immigrants.”

Expressing “disappointment” that the measure would only effect immigrants who have moved to Israel within four years, Coter-Wunsh added, “We will follow the implementation of these guidelines and continue to discuss and address this issue responsibly so that all immigrants can be reunited with their immediate families and loved ones, at this trying time more than ever.”

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