'Shabak surveillance program made it possible to stop pandemic'

Israeli Energy Minister credits domestic surveillance program with stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Tracking (stock)
Tracking (stock)

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), a member of the Security Cabinet, on Tuesday credited the Shin Bet internal security agency’s domestic surveillance and tracking program with halting the spread of the coronavirus in Israel.

In an interview with Reshet Bet Tuesday morning, Steinitz said the cyber monitoring program was one of the key factors in stopping the rapid spread of the virus, adding that keeping track of those infected or suspected of carrying the virus remains critical even as Israel begins to drop restrictions on movement.

“The digital tracking program of the Shin Bet was one of the factors which enabled us to halt the outbreaks. And now especially, when we’re starting to go return to normal life, tracking is even more important, since tracking allows us to nip the infections in the bud by putting people into quarantine within a matter of hours.”

Steinitz’s comments came shortly before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee opened a hearing on the Shin Bet’s civilian tracking program.

“We’re continuing to look for alternatives,” National Security Council chief Meir Ben Shabbat said. “Using the Shin Bet isn’t the ideal choice. If we’ll have another option, we’ll use it. The emphasis is on getting to the source [of the infection] as soon as possible, without general restrictions [on the public].”

MK Eli Avidar (Yisrael Beytenu) castigated the government over the tracking program.

“You want to turn Israel into a police state,” he said. “No other country in the world thought of using something which tramples on human liberty.”

Beginning in March, the Shin Bet used digital surveillance of known carriers of the coronavirus, as well as people suspected of carrying the virus, to ensure they remain in quarantine.

While authorities are able to request information from cell phone companies and internet providers in other cases, to combat the coronavirus, Israel temporarily suspended the requirement for a warrant in these cases.