View the Country Report for Israel in the Oxford Compendium of National Legal Responses to Covid-19

Israel has a parliamentary regime with a unicameral legislature (the ‘Knesset’). The Knesset, which consists of 120 members (‘MKs’), is elected in general, representative, multi-party elections. The candidate for Prime Minister who manages to command the support of at least a simple majority of MKs receives from the President the mandate to establish a coalition and form a government.

Israel does not have a complete written constitution. Following a 1950 decision known as ‘the Harari decision’, the Knesset enacts Basic Laws on an ongoing basis. The Basic Laws serve as constitutional norms and are superior to legislation. Since the Knesset also enacts regular legislation, it effectively acts as both legislature and constitutional assembly. Fourteen Basic Laws have been enacted to date.

Israeli law does not apply as such within the Occupied Palestinian Territories (‘OPT’) which Israel has controlled since 1967. Various mechanisms are used to apply Israeli law specifically to Jewish settlers residing in the OPT but not to Palestinians. Generally the discussion of Israel in the report does not address Israel’s policies towards the OPT during the Covid-19 crisis, and the measures taken by the Palestinian authorities themselves, as these are issues that merit expansive independent discussion. However, the question of Israel’s duties towards the Palestinian population are addressed briefly. LAC19 is currently in discussions with legal experts in pursuit of a territory report for the OPT.

In response to the emergence of Covid-19 Israel took a series of measures restricting movement and activity in the public and private spheres. The measures can be divided into three major periods corresponding to three major ‘lockdowns’ and then into the periods between lockdowns. We use the term ‘lockdown’ in its popular use, to describe periods where restrictions were imposed on people from leaving their homes, unless done within a prescribed allowed distance, or for a prescribed list of purposes.

Like many other countries Israel imposed severe restrictions on gatherings and then on mobility and closure of most public and private services in March 2020.  That was followed by a gradual relaxation of these measures in the second period from April 2020. While some restrictions were re-imposed from July 2020, it was in September 2020 that a second ‘lockdown’ was imposed due to rising infection numbers. From October there was once again a relaxation of measures, but with infection numbers rising again a third lockdown was imposed in December 2020 and ended in February 2021. Many of the measures, such as closure of various public facilities, schools, restaurants, restrictions on gatherings and more, remained in place between lockdowns and after the end of the third lockdown. In fact, some of them were imposed even before the first lockdown.  However, in the period after the end of the third lockdown, remaining measures have been gradually relaxing following Israel’s successful vaccination campaign.  

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