Domestic legal framework

  • GeneralThe Government of Israel (GoI) has not declared the existence of a state of emergency with respect to the applicability and implementation of international legal instruments to which it is party specifically following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, nor derogated from its obligations under the ICCPR. However, it relied on various emergency powers under domestic law to regulate a variety of aspects of the legal response to the COVID-19 crisis in a manner that involves limitations on the enjoyment of various human rights.
  • Emergency powers: On 27 January 2020 the minister of health declared the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV (COVID-19) to be a ‘dangerous contagious disease that creates a severe danger to public health’. [1] Under the Public Health Ordinance of 1940, [2] this declaration empowers the minister of health and officials in the ministry of health to take special measures for addressing a danger emanating from a declared contagious disease that threatens any part of Israel. These measures included ordering self-isolation, restrictions on gatherings, restrictions on movement and forced hospitalisation, wearing of masks in public, and sanctions for failure to comply with the various instructions.
  • State of Emergency: On 15 March 2020 the GoI began relying on its power to promulgate emergency regulations during a State of Emergency (that have the force of primary legislation). [3] A declaration of a State of Emergency has been in effect in Israel since its establishment in 1948. The state of emergency allows the government to adopt regulations that supersede parliamentary legislation. The legislation that empowers the Knesset to declare a state of emergency does not define what constitutes an ‘emergency’. [4]
  • State of Emergency legislation: On 23 June 2020 emergency regulations were adopted by parliamentary legislation. [5] On 23 July 2020 they were substituted by comprehensive parliamentary legislation, when the Knesset adopted the Special Powers for Treating the Novel Coronavirus (Temporary Provision) Law, 2020, in effect until 30 June 2021 (hereafter ‘Temporary Provision Law’). [6] According to the Law, the Government may declare an State of Emergency due to Coronavirus (SEdC) if it is convinced that there is a real risk of a broad spread of the COVID-19 and a significant harm to public health, which require action under the law. The Knesset may annul a declaration of SEdC. During a SEdC the government may promulgate regulations to prevent contagion or reduce the spread of the virus, reduce morbidity or protect vulnerable population. Such regulations are in force for up to 28 days and may be extended periodically. They too require parliamentary approval. The regulations may include restrictions on distancing from private homes, subject to various exceptions; social distancing; closure of businesses; closure of educational institutions; and restrictions on public and private transport. They may be adopted only for the time and to the extent required for these purposes, following considerations of alternative, their effect on rights and on the economy. Upon the adoption of the Temporary Provision Law a declaration on a SEdC came into force for 45 days ,[7] which has since been extended periodically, under parliamentary approval. [8]
  • Special State of Emergency: On 30 September 2020 the Knesset amended the Temporary Provision Law to introduce a ‘Special State of Emergency due to COVID-19’ (SSE), [9] which the government may declare if, during the period of a SEdC it is convinced that there is a broad spread of COVID-19 which causes a severe harm to public health, and there are already full restrictions. Such a declaration may be in force for up to 7 days, and may be extended for up to 21 days altogether; or longer, with parliamentary approval. During a period of an SSE the government may adopt further restrictions over those applicable in a SEdC. 


GA resolutions on the COVID-19 pandemic

  • A/RES/74/270: Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (3 April 2020): Israel co-sponsored the draft resolution,[10] which was subsequently adopted through the silence procedure.
  • A/RES/74/274: International cooperation to ensure global access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19 (20 April 2020): Israel co-sponsored the draft resolution,[11] which was subsequently adopted through the silence procedure 
  • A/RES/74/306: Comprehensive and coordinated response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic (11 September 2020): [12] Israel voted in favour of paragraph 7 of draft resolution A/74/L.92 (relating to reproductive rights) and abstained on its paragraph 34 (on considering COVID-19 experience in enhancement of global transport).[13] Israel voted against the amendment in draft resolution A/74/L.93 [14] It then voted against the adoption of the draft resolution as a whole. It explained its vote as follows:[15]

We believe that the text put forward by the co-facilitators was a comprehensive and balanced one.  We were disappointed by the amendment put forward on paragraph 20 of the draft omnibus resolution, which threatened the delicate balance in the text achieved by the co-facilitators, and we therefore voted against the resolution. …. Israel remains committed to working together with the international community in the fight against the coronavirus disease.

  • A/RES/74/307: United response against global health threats: combating COVID-19 (11 September 2020): Israel co-sponsored draft resolution A/74/L.57 and voted in favour of it, resulting in Resolution 74/307.[16]
  • A/RES/75/4: Special session of the General Assembly in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic (5 November 2020): Israel abstained in the vote on a proposed amendment relating to speakers at the opening of the special session.[17] Israel proposed an amendment to the operative provisions on participation in the special session so that instead of referring to ‘Member and Observer States, the European Union’, and ‘each Member State, Observer State, and the European Union’, they would refer to ‘Member State and observers of the General Assembly’.[18] It further voted against a proposed oral amendment by the US to delete reference to the role of the WHO in the response to COVID-19.[19] Following the rejection of its proposed amendment, Israel abstained in the vote on the draft resolution as a whole,[20] stating that it[21]

regrets having had to abstain on the modalities resolution today (resolution 75/4). We would have preferred to vote in favour but could not do so due to the political pressure that prevented the resolution from using the agreed participation formula. We therefore dissociate from operative paragraphs 3(c) and 4(a).

  • A/RES/75/17: International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains (1 December 2020): Israel joined in the adoption of the resolution without a vote.[22]
  • A/RES/75/156: Strengthening national and international rapid response to the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on women and girls (16 December 2020).[23]
  • A/RES/75/157: Women and girls and the response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (16 December 2020).[24]  Israel co-sponsored the resolution at the 3rd committee.[25]

[1] Order on a Dangerous Contagious Disease Under the Public Health Order (27 January 2020)

[4] Basic Law: The Government, ss 38, 39. The declaration is extended periodically. It was last extended by Knesset approval on 3 June 2020, until 11 September 2021,

[7] Special Powers for Combatting the New Coronavirus (Temporary Provision), 2020 s 51.

[8]  (6 September 2020 extension from 7 September  to 6 November 2020),  (23 December 2020 extension from 3 January to 3 March 2020), (3 March extension until 1 May), (3 May 2021 extension until 29 June 2021).

[9] Special Powers for Combatting the New Coronavirus Regulations (Temporary Provision), 2020 (Amendment No 2) (30 September 2020)

[10] UN Doc A/74/L.52/Add.1 (2 April 2020)

[11] UN Doc A/74/L.56/Add.1 (20 April 2020)

[12] UN Doc A/74/L.92, adopted 169-2-2 (Israel voting against), UN Doc A/74/PV.64. 

[13] UN Doc A/74/PV.64 p 6. 

[14] UN Doc A/74/L.93 (adopted 84-13-60), ibid. The proposal replaces the wording in para 20, from ‘Calls for the urgent removal of unjustified obstacles, in order to ensure the universal, timely and equitable access to, and fair distribution of, all quality, safe, efficacious and affordable essential health technologies and products, including their components and precursors, that are required in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic;’ to ‘Strongly urges States to refrain from promulgating and applying any unilateral economic, financial or trade measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations that impede the full achievement of economic and social development, particularly in developing countries;’. The amendment was perceived as directed against US sanctions against Iran,

[15] Adopted 122-0-31 UN Doc A/74/PV.64 p 9.

[16] UN Doc A/74/PV.64 p 30-31.

[17] Proposed amendment UN Doc A/75/L.12 (4 November 2020), voting recorded in UN Doc A/75/PV.21 p 10.

[18] Israel’s proposed amendment UN Doc A/75/L.13 (4 November 2020), introduced in UN Doc A/75/PV.21 p 7, voting recorded ibid p 10.

[19] voting recorded ibid p 11.

[20] Draft resolution UN Doc A/75/L.8 adopted 150-0-03.

[21] UN Doc A/75/PV.21 p 14.

[22] UN Doc A/75/PV.32 p 5.

[23] UN Doc A/75/471 para 15 Israel objected to proposed amendments. The draft resolution UN Doc (A/C.3/75/L.6/Rev.1) as a whole was adopted without a vote in the third committee; in the UNGA adopted without a vote (16 December 2020), UN Doc A/75/PV.46.

[24] UN Doc A/75/PV.46 adopted without a vote.

[25] UN Doc A/75/471 para 18, It objected to some of the proposed amendments. Draft Resolution UN Doc A/C.3/75/L.13/Rev.1 was adopted without a vote in the third committee; in the UNGA adopted without a vote (16 December 2020), A/75/PV.46.