Amichai Atali
Amichai Atali
Photo: Courtesy

Netanyahu gets A for vaccines, F for pandemic

Opinion: In 71 days, Israelis will head to the polls and might finally decide on who they want as a leader: a flashy showman and political trickster or a sensible leader whose decisions and governance make such flashiness irrelevant

Amichai Attali |
Published: 01.11.21 , 23:46
Israel has vaccines because of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which is admittedly excellent - but we might have not needed them in the first place but for him.
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  • The prime minister did not bring the pandemic into this county, but he surely failed in handling it.
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    (Cartoon: Guy Morad)
    So Netanyahu did what Netanyahu always does - he pulled a rabbit out of his hat and now Israel is the world leader in vaccinations.
    But the question still remains: Is the success of the vaccination campaign an accomplishment of the vestiges of socialism that are Israel's health maintenance organizations or would we not have seen the vaccines for another two years if it were not for Netanyahu?
    This debate is merely another aspect in the endless maze surrounding Netanyahu, turning every issue in this country into a pro- or anti-Bibi issue.
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    הטיסה המסחרית הראשונה מישראל לדובאי
    הטיסה המסחרית הראשונה מישראל לדובאי
    Israelis waiting to board a flight to Dubai at Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    Israel essentially being an island when it comes to its borders was supposed to aid the country in its dealing with the pandemic.
    We have full control over who goes in and out, unlike countries such as Germany, France or Spain, where the border is a mere concept at best.
    Israel has only one international airport, which it could have closed and reopened accordingly, making testing and quarantine for all returnees or arrivals from abroad.
    But Netanyahu did nothing to utilize this advantage. In his speeches, he compares Israel to Italy or Sweden, but he should have looked to countries with far more similar features like Taiwan (828 total cases and seven deaths) or New Zealand (2,222 total cases and 25 deaths).
    But given that the ultra-Orthodox are apparently the last sector loyal to him, he would never dare say a word about the flagrant and ongoing breaches of public health protocols in their communities.
    He is equally unable to do anything with the flaunting of orders in the Arab sector.
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    חתונה המונית במודיעין עילית
    חתונה המונית במודיעין עילית
    An ultra-Orthodox wedding at the West Bank settlement of Modi'in Illit held in violation of public health orders
    (Photo: Itamar Kirshbaum)
    But despite all of this, no one can deny his success in striking agreements with Pfizer and Moderna and the subsequent rapid delivery of large shipments of their vaccines.
    This dichotomy is the essence of Netanyahu's character. On one hand, he is a great statesman and strategist, but on the other hand, he is not built for the daily governance of a country as exhausting as Israel.
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    Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Netanyahu welcoming a shipment of Pfizer vaccines on Sunday
    Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Netanyahu welcoming a shipment of Pfizer vaccines on Sunday
    Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Prime Minister Netanyahu welcoming a shipment of Pfizer vaccines on Sunday
    (Photo: Moti Milrod)
    Netanyahu is a magician when it comes to flashy announcements, but when it comes to running this nation efficiently - given his political and legal situation forcing him to fight tooth and nail for his survival - he is simply unable to do so.
    In 71 days, Israelis head to the polls for the fourth time in two years and might finally liberate us from this endless maze.
    Do Israelis want a showman who can rise to the challenge when the chips are down, or do they want a more lowkey leader who can steer the state well enough that we do need all of this flashiness?
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