בנימין נתניהו ורוני גמזו במשל"ט הקורונה בשיבא
Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo: Ta Shahar
Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

New coronavirus czar plays Netanyahu at his own game

Opinion: Prof. Gamzu, who took over Israel's coronavirus response apparatus, openly told politicians, 'you failed'; now, this Netanyahu's megamaniacal twin with political inspirations, looks savvy enough to knock PM off his perch

Dr. Baruch Leshem |
Published: 08.09.20 , 23:26
During Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first tenure as premier, he gave an interview to Israeli state television at his office, with an Israeli flag and books behind him, creating an image of a patriotic and intellectual leader.
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  • Before the interview began, Netanyahu inquired about the cameras and wondered which of them was filming him from the front. The reporters thought Netanyahu simply wanted to adequately present himself, but he had something else in mind.
    בנימין נתניהובנימין נתניהו
    Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: GPO)
    During the live interview, he completely surprised the TV crew.
    After a Q&A, Netanyahu said to them: "With your permission, I would like to say a few things to the Israeli public." He ignored his interviewers, turned to the front camera, and started speaking directly to the viewers.
    Other politicians and public figures have tried to do the same trick since then, but most of them were not successful. Until Prof. Ronni Gamzu, the head of Israel's coronavirus task force, came along.
    Shortly after his appointment, Gamzu gave an interview to Channel 12's Dana Weiss. During the interview, he would from time to time turn to the camera and speak directly to the Israeli public.
    בנימין נתניהו ורוני גמזו במשל"ט הקורונה בשיבאבנימין נתניהו ורוני גמזו במשל"ט הקורונה בשיבא
    Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Ta Shahar)
    This kind of masterclass in speaking to the public requires professional expertise, composure and knowing where the right camera is placed, or else one could come across as a crossed-eyed idiot. It also takes some ego to ignore the interviewer and make direct "eye contact" with the viewer.
    Gamzu also has a tendency to lean towards the camera as it focuses on his expression-filled eyes, as he has done during other live television appearances. He very well might be practicing hypnosis in his spare time as a hobby.
    It must be a fascinating phenomenon to research from a psychological perspective. A man who over the past years has worked as a hospital director, stands before the prime minister, the alternate prime minister and the health minister and essentially tells them, "you failed, now it's my turn to steer."
    ברק אובמהברק אובמה
    Barack Obama
    (Photo: AP)
    Former U.S. President Barack Obama once said: "Change will not come if we wait for another person or another time. We are the person we have been waiting for. We are the change we are looking for." We might very well have an Israeli successor of Obama on our hands.
    Only a person with a giant ego can handle this tiny and evasive virus. Gamzu's problem, however, is that he pointed out to the public his enemies - the politicians. As a result, he entered a minefield and was caught in a crossfire where he is now the target.
    For elected officials, the loss of the public's support impairs their ability to get re-elected. If Gamzu succeeds, it means they all have failed. They had already told the media via sources that Gamzu "seemed helpless" during meetings of the coronavirus cabinet.
    בנימין נתניהובנימין נתניהו
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Emile Selman)
    So what is the prime minister going to do with this coronavirus czar? His megalomaniacal twin who tries to steal his spotlight?
    Netanyahu, who is pushing for elections to save himself from a criminal trial, is desperately looking for some positive achievements.
    His annexation plan crumbled, the economy is on the verge of collapse and the second coronavirus wave is being blamed on him. But if he manages to flatten the curve once more, he'll have a positive message to tout in the next election campaign, which could come sooner than we think.
    Netanyahu has no problem co-opting other people's ideas. Gamzu demanded the Home Front Command handle epidemiological investigations of coronavirus patients and Netanyahu complied despite opposing it for months for political reasons. Netanyahu then went to tour the Home Frond Command base as if he planned it ages ago, while Gamzu was nowhere to be seen.
    פרופ' רוני גמזו מסביר על מדד ה-Rפרופ' רוני גמזו מסביר על מדד ה-R
    Coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu
    Netanyahu may have another problem with Gamzu - he has political aspirations. After Yaakov Litzman resigned from the position of health minister, Gamzu offered his candidacy for the part without hesitating.
    Gamzu's taking over Israel's coronavirus response apparatus looked like the launch of an election campaign: interviews, newspaper covers and touching television coverage of his life story.
    In the political vacuum created following Netanyahu's poor leadership and those aspiring to replace him, the Messiah can come not only from the army but also from the health system.
    Netanyahu failed to deal with the first wave of coronavirus because the biggest opponent he faced was himself. Gamzu has two tough opponents: Netanyahu and himself. But he will not let anyone rob him of his spotlight.
    Dr. Baruch Leshem is a lecturer at the Department of Politics and Media at Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem and writer of the book "Benjamin Netanyahu - Master of Political Marketing"
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