שרית רוזנבלום
Sarit Rosenblum
Photo: Dana Kopel
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a face mask during a press conference regarding the COVID-19 situation in Israel

Bennett's pandemic plan seems all talk, no action

Opinion: Despite his media-friendly news conference, Bennett's declarations on how he'll battle the new COVID strain ring hollow in the face of uncertainty and lack of a real plan, with only weeks until the start of the school year that could spark mass outbreaks

Sarit Rosenblum |
Published: 07.15.21, 23:45
After establishing and selling four very successful start-up companies that earned him millions of dollars, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is now working on another revolutionary project called "Beating a worldwide pandemic with nothing but words".
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  • After mocking his predecessor and former mentor, Benjamin Netanyahu, for his “dramatic” press conferences during Israel’s initial COVID waves, Bennett proved he does indeed plan to take a different approach to dealing with the pandemic, just as was promised in his election campaign.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a face mask during a press conference regarding the COVID-19 situation in Israel
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a face mask during a press conference regarding the COVID-19 situation in Israel
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a face mask during a press conference regarding the COVID-19 situation in Israel
    (Photo: EPA )
    And despite some clear similarities between Bennett's Wednesday press conference and those given by Netanyahu during his tenure, which included familiar slideshows and exaggerated hand gestures, the overall atmosphere was completely different.
    While Netanyahu always faced the media with a serious and even grim facial expression, Bennett seemed relieved and smiley. Instead of Netanyahu’s myriad of warnings, Bennett decided to reassure the public. Instead of announcing more and more restrictions, Bennet announced more reliefs.
    The problem is that Bennett's friendly demeanor signals to travelers from abroad, who had no qualms about violating the mandatory two weeks quarantine, that they can now violate the new and improved one-week quarantine instead.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    נמל התעופה בן גוריון
    נמל התעופה בן גוריון
    People leaving Ben Gurion Airport
    (Photo: Shaul Golan)
    Netanyahu’s threatening tone that pleaded with us to take the pandemic seriously, has been replaced by Bennett’s friendly appeal to the public to follow the guidelines.
    As it turns out, Bennett’s plan to beat the pandemic is based on three, admittedly predictable and familiar, rules: Masks, social distancing and vaccines.
    According to Bennett, if the public adheres to the three rules it will curb Israel’s surging COVID cases within five short weeks. The prime minister concluded his easy-going press conference with an appeal to the Israeli people: “Go get vaccinated.”
    Despite his promises of victory over the Delta variant through unity and adherence to guidelines, it seems that Bennett forgot that it takes two to tango.
    The new school year opens in a month and a half. With the exception of a vague promise that students will not be studying remotely this year, we have not heard a single word about from Bennett about a plan to ensure our children's health in class and in case the virus situation will deteriorate.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    בית הספר ענבלים
    בית הספר ענבלים
    Schoolchildren wearing masks in class
    (Photo: Yariv Katz)
    The school year in the ultra-Orthodox education system, which starts even earlier on August 9, has also been completely forgotten, as was the Arab population’s upcoming Feast of Sacrifice, which is known as a potential source for mass outbreaks.
    Many other countries that are now also dealing with the spread of the Delta variant make every effort to minimize the damage to the population and their way of life.
    In Israel though, Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz prefer to toss the responsibility to the public, while hoping that a miracle will save us.
    Those who read between the prime minister’s optimistic lines, however, can see Bennett knows full well where we are headed.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    מחלקת קורונה ברמב"ם חיפה
    מחלקת קורונה ברמב"ם חיפה
    Rambam Hospital's COVID ward, September 2020
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "The world is turning red," he warned in his speech, which was sprinkled with hints regarding the possibility of another lockdown.
    The numbers of verified and critically ill patients keeps climbing, which now includes those who've been vaccinated. Our children, meanwhile, are being left to the mercy of the pathogen and no one knows what impact it will have on their young lives later.
    The writing's on the wall, but nobody is willing to read it.

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