On the night of March 16, following a six-hour session, the Israeli government issued state of emergency regulations allowing the deployment of special measures vis-a-vis its civilian population without the approval and supervision of the Knesset. Specifically, the measures allow the Shin Bet to use digital surveillance developed in Israel to monitor cell phone locations. Until now, the Shin Bet had only used it to fight Palestinian terrorism. As of now, the agency is also authorized to monitor the movements of suspected novel coronavirus carriers.
While the approved use is limited in scope and time — designed in principle to locate people who were in contact with those infected by the virus — it is nonetheless a slippery slope that has generated a wave of criticism, especially from liberal circles. Use of these special means against terrorists is under close parliamentary supervision by the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, whereas the government’s middle of the night decision this week circumvented parliamentary oversight in order to save time and “save lives,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained.