The phrase "if not" has become the main mantra of Israeli leadership since the beginning of summer in their strategy against the coronavirus pandemic.
"If this and that is not done," they say during their public appearances, "we will bring upon ourselves a health and financial disaster."
If weddings are not stopped, there will be a lockdown. If crowded concerts do not stop, there will be a lockdown. If schools are not shuttered in coronavirus hotspots, there will be a lockdown. If Israelis do not wear a protective face mask in public, there will be a lockdown. If the annual Rosh Hashana pilgrimage to Uman is not stopped, there will be a lockdown.
What meaning does the phrase "if not" still has if those who oversee the nation's strategy against coronavirus use it so haphazardly?
It means that they relinquish their responsibility and hand it over to this amorphic body called "the public."
This must end now. The threatening tone of this phrase is null and void, and not only because nearly 60% of the public is ready for a lockdown but is also demanding it.
This term should be expunged from Israeli vernacular. It is insulting and frustrating that while a pandemic ravages this small nation, all its "leaders" can do is warn us of what would happen if we do not do this and that.
Take the Second Intifada, for example, which did not end because the Israeli government said, "if you do not stop riding busses and sitting at cafes, you will be exposed to suicide terror attacks."
They were stopped through a clear and aggressive counterterror strategy, even though there were those who told Israelis to just live with the constant attacks for the time being because there is no magical solution.
During the mid-1980s, when Israel's inflation rate soared 500% in one year, politicians and fiscal experts threatened the public, saying that "if employers do not stop raising prices, the workers do not stop demanding for higher pay and the public does not stop investing in dollars, we will have a financial disaster." Those threats amounted to nothing.
And again, Israeli leaders took the reins and initiated a comprehensive, aggressive and harsh financial plan that, lo and behold, stopped the rising inflation and saved the nation from collapse.
It is true that fighting terrorism or hyperinflation is not the same as combating a global pandemic, but they do share similar characteristics.
Dozens of nations succeeded in their battle, dramatically lowering their infection rate.
Their health experts and politicians do not need to tell their people "if not," they just do what needs to be done, regardless of the scope of the virus' spread in each nation.
The "if not" police have overstayed their welcome, and if they do stay, it's a sign Israeli leaders are waiting for a miracle, or worse, dereliction of duty.