Israeli government becomes latest coronavirus casualty

Opinion: Israelis are united in their criticism of the government's failure to address the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis; Israel needs a national plan with one person in charge of it, but will the egos of this inflated coalition allow it?

Nadav Eyal|
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of 0.65% of humanity but it can also add the Israeli government to its list of casualties.
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  • Many see the moral bankruptcy of Israeli politics in the continued tenure of a prime minister who has been indicted for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.
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    עימותים ועצורים אחרי ההפגנה: "זו מלחמה"
    עימותים ועצורים אחרי ההפגנה: "זו מלחמה"
    Demonstrators call for the ouster of Prime Minister Netanyahu
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    Others would argue that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the only responsible adult in the Israeli cabinet. But, it is the government that has failed by its inability to dictate policy and to lead.
    Restaurant owners can attest to this government's total ineptitude. They were instructed on Friday morning to close their businesses to all but takeaway and delivery services, only to be told a few hours later they could keep their doors open at least for a few more days.
    This is because the prime minister discovered that eateries have commitments to their suppliers and staff and can't close down with a few hours' notice.
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    מחאת המסעדנים
    מחאת המסעדנים
    Restaurant owners hand out food during their protest of the government in Jerusalem
    (Photo: Haim Goldich)
    Policy decisions that become irrelevant when faced with reality of failing businesses and growing unemployment.
    Israelis struggling financially as a result of the health crisis, will say the government has failed because there is no plan in place to deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic and that decisions were made due to pressure from certain groups and panic. Those people would probably claim the government seems to be trying to treat an infected wound with a used band-aid.
    Israelis are split on the question of the prime minister's legal troubles, and on the wisdom or morality of holding on to the office under such circumstances, but they are united in their criticism of both Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, and their failures to confront the economic and social fallout of the pandemic.
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    ישיבת ממשלה
    ישיבת ממשלה
    Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The last couple of days are a case in point. The stumbling efforts to appoint a "coronavirus czar," promised by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein almost three weeks ago, has turned into a farce.
    The success of any named czar depends first and foremost on the public confidence, a commodity lacking when it comes to this government.
    There is no confidence among those on the left and those on the right. Nor can confidence be found among the ultra-Orthodox public or the Arab sector. Small business owners as well as industrialists share the same lack of trust in the government. Perhaps only the families of some ministers could honestly report they have any faith in the people in charge.
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    מחאה חרדים רוממה ירושלים
    מחאה חרדים רוממה ירושלים
    Ultra-Orthodox residents demonstrate in Jerusalem
    (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
    Our politicians have us in a bind. On the one hand, we have a government incapable of making decisions or setting policy and on the other hand, we cannot afford yet another election cycle, especially not when we're in the midst of a crisis.
    But we're looking at the situation from the perspective of the public, and politicians are motivated differently. For some, this bind is a treasure. They can decide to dissolve the cabinet and announce new elections, if they find the move would advance their own interests. Netanyahu is a master of spin. He can always say he was coerced and was left with no other option.
    We must not forget that Netanyahu has an intense cross-examination stage of his criminal trial coming up in January of 2021, and that could very well determine his next political move.
    Our politicians would be wise to remember the current failures, in an oversized government they said would be needed to fight the coronavirus, will have consequences.
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    מחלקת קורונה בשיבא
    מחלקת קורונה בשיבא
    A coronavirus ward at the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv
    (Photo: AFP)
    Israel needs a national plan and one person tasked with its operational execution. This person would be required to provide economic responses, must prepare schools for studies under coronavirus restrictions and must provide solutions for a health system that will be overburdened by coronavirus, as well as seasonal flu come fall and winter.
    These are the real challenges.
    The pandemic has exposed the inability of the government to govern, the gap between the politician's false rhetoric and their actions, and the cost of their corruption and inner bickering to our health system, as well as to everything else.
    National consensus lies in the knowledge that they have failed, and the cost of their failure will be high.
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