On Tuesday morning, the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discussed the use of Shabak tracking of those identified as carriers of the newly identified "Omicron" strain of the coronavirus.
During the discussion, it emerged that tracking has already been activated on 13 people, 2 of whom have been determined as infected with the Omicron variant with certainty; the other 11 are considered infected "with a high level of suspicion."
The head of public health services, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, called the tracking an "important tool."
"During our own investigations, we reached 186 contacts while tracing the 13 people suspected of being infected with the variant - and thanks to the Shabak, another 42 were added. We see that this is a complementary and important tool," she said.
"We are working specifically to prevent morbidity from the Omicron variant," Alroy-Preis said, adding, "When the number of verified cases with the new strain exceeds a certain threshold and there is community-wide infection, there will no longer be any point in continuing to use this tool."
Also present during the discussion was the deputy Attorney-General, Raz Nizri, who said that the use of Shabak tracking is "a very problematic and complex legal issue.
"In a democratic state, the Shabak is not supposed to act against civilians at all, except in cases of terrorism, but every rule has an exception and that is the event we are in at the moment," he said.
Nizri added: "During Shabbat we were approached for immediate approval and I explained that it was not possible to start immediately as the government would need to approve it."
MK Emilie Moatti (Labor) then asked: "If I get sick with COVID, then does that mean that all the members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee are going to be tracked by the Shabak?"
A representative of the Health Ministry replied: "Only if your infection is verified by a PCR test, and only if you are identified as carrying the Omicron strain. Currently, we know of 11 such people."
The committee's chairman, MK Ram Ben-Barak, asked: "Is anyone who was in the proximity of the PCR-verified person also going to be tested for infection? Will such people also be tracked by the Shabak?" A representative of the Health Ministry replied in the affirmative.
MK Meirav Ben-Ari (Yesh Atid) harshly criticized the use of the Shabak to track citizens: "Using Shabak tracking on civilians is draconian. What's the panic? We only have a few infections, so what's all the fuss about? To introduce such a law, which in my opinion is draconian, is not at all to my liking and I see no reason why in this day and age the Knesset needs to rush through such legislation."
Later during the discussion, deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri explained that,"The civilian authorities have yet to invent an alternative technology, and the situation is that we have no other way to save lives other than via use of this Shabak tool. Therefore, legal approval has been granted."