עינב שיף
Einav Schiff
Photo: Nimrod Sanders
Long lines outside a coronavirus testing site in Petach Tikva on Sunday

Bennett's handling of COVID proves he's prime minister in title only

Opinion: Although he's not facing potential prison time like his predecessor, PM lacks political power over his coalition, to dictate tough policy needed to fight pandemic and calm Israeli public amid Omicron spread

Einav Schiff |
Published: 01.10.22, 23:41
As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 sweeps the world, Israelis agree on one thing: In many aspects, there is a gap between what Prime Minister Naftali Bennett believes his government should do to fight the current wave of the pandemic, and what is ultimately, done.
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  • Bennett was quick to publish a book on the way to defeat the pandemic, and he may regret that today.
    2 צפייה בגלריה
    עומס במתחם בדיקות בפתח תקווה
    עומס במתחם בדיקות בפתח תקווה
    Long lines outside a coronavirus testing site in Petach Tikva on Sunday
    (Photo: Yariv Katz)
    But it is hard to forget the days when Israel was burdened by a prime minister who was suspected of accepting bribes, and opted therefore, to ensure his political survival at all costs.
    Or the policies of the government swayed by the political extortion of the prime minister, by Haredi members of the coalition - those who openly violated health regulations, without legal consequence.
    2 צפייה בגלריה
    בנימין נתניהו יעקב ליצמן הערכת מצב נגיף קורונה משרד הבריאות
    בנימין נתניהו יעקב ליצמן הערכת מצב נגיף קורונה משרד הבריאות
    Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his Health Minister Yaakov Litzman in 2020
    (Photo: Reuters)
    We can also not forget, the decision of then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's finance minister, who was criticized for irresponsibly spending public funds in order to appease the growing anger at the effects of the pandemic on businesses.
    Bennett's troubles are different but are troubles, nonetheless. He is prime minister in name only.
    With just six Knesset seats to back him, he is without options. His small party does not provide him with more than symbolic power and without it, he is forced into long negotiations, conflicting decisions and impossible compromises, with his coalition partners – when he should be forcefully dictating policy.
    In a terrifying, moving crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, instead of providing the public with the logic and order it demands amid the chaos – Bennett's government offers little more than a S..,Show, to coin the phrase of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.
    Some may say the problem is limited to coalition squabbles, such as have always plagued governments under the current laws.
    Ministers and some in the press, describe the problem as "differences of opinion," which they claim are preferable over the uniformed thought and political cowardice of the previous government.
    There is in fact a difference between decisions made by a prime minister who lacks political backing and those made by a premier who is on a mission to avoid a prison cell.
    Still, the damage is consistent and long-lasting. And because it sets a political precedent and comes during an unprecedented health crisis, it may be permanent.
    The government could perhaps bring in a professional who can take the lead for a limited time. Or it could rotate the responsibility among coalition party leaders.
    All that is needed is a change to the title. No longer a prime minister but a designated hall monitor. Perhaps we can try that option and see where that will take us?






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