גיורא איילנד
Giora Eiland
Photo: Assaf Friedman
Israelis in Tel Aviv protest restrictions on demonstrations as part of coronavirus mitigation efforts

Israel's leaders must win back public trust

Opinion: The key to beating the pandemic is to differentiate between localities, businesses and activities; this requires faith of citizens in the government, but this is at rock bottom due to its failings in four major areas

Giora Eiland |
Published: 10.11.20 , 23:45
The coronavirus pandemic triggered a strong desire to resist any attempts to differentiate between Israel's sectors of population due to a immediate common impact on the economic, social and even mental state of everyone.
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  • But Israeli society is not homogeneous and should not be treated as such. In fact, such differentiation - in communities, activities and businesses - is key to beating the virus.
    עימותים בין משטרה למפגינים בתל אביבעימותים בין משטרה למפגינים בתל אביב
    Israelis in Tel Aviv protest restrictions on demonstrations as part of coronavirus mitigation efforts
    (Photo: AP)
    There are four rules required to create effective differentiation, which would have prevented any sense of favoritism; unfortunately, the government failed to follow any of them.
    First, defining criteria in advance. If, for example, the "traffic light" plan - which classes areas as red, orange or green according to infection rate - had been adopted back in June, when all communities were green (the lowest infection rate) the plan would have been perceived as being a fair way of keeping morbidity down.
    But the model was only adopted in August, when some localities were already suffering from extremely high infection rates and therefore classed as red areas. These localities then argued that the plan unfairly targeted them alone.
    אכיפת משטרה בביתר עיליתאכיפת משטרה בביתר עילית
    Police officers implementing a localized lockdown in the Haredi settlement of Beir Illit, where infection rates were high
    (Photo: Shalev Shalom)
    Second, delegating authority: Both in the first wave and in the current one the government has been very concerned with the question of how far a citizen can move away from their home.
    This is unnecessary, because the lockdown aimed to limit the number of people gathered in one place. But if everybody is stuck within a kilometer from their home, then the restriction is moot.
    It would have been better if the government had delegated the authority to determine movement to the heads of each community. If a particular community borders an open area or forest, there is no reason to limit the distance that its residents can go in that area.
    Moreover, once the government relinquishes authority to mayors, even if some citizens have complaints, the address will be their own mayor and not the government.
    עימותים בין שוטרים לקבוצות חרדים בסמוך לבית הכנסת חסדא בבני ברקעימותים בין שוטרים לקבוצות חרדים בסמוך לבית הכנסת חסדא בבני ברק
    Ultra-Orthodox protesters in Bnei Brak demonstrating against the closure and the restrictions
    (Photo: Shaul Golan)
    Third, professional bodies: As long as decisions are made by a professional and multidisciplinary body, claims that decisions are being made on a political basis would hold no merit.
    Fourth, transparency: During both the first and second wave of the pandemic, the government made certain decisions without providing the public with an explanation of its reasoning or the parameters used to make those decisions.
    The coronavirus pandemic is not a security issue that necessitates secrecy. It was wrong to assume that during a health crisis the public would be satisfied with some bigwig insisting: “We know what we are doing.”
    The public today simply does not believe that the government's decisions are made out of professional considerations. And as long as this persists, the government cannot expect the public to adhere to its rules.
    If the government fails to correct these deficiencies, it will be impossible to make the needed distinctions between cities, types of businesses, forms of physical activity and so on.
    Without fixing these errors, the government will never beat this crisis.
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