Ben-Dror Yemini
Ben-Dror Yemini
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister Yaakov Litzman

PM believes public health can go to hell

Opinion: Netanyahu has publicly demonstrated his years of long kowtowing to demands from his Ultra-Orthodox political partners; they know he is a coward and we will all have to pay the price for his negligence of our national interests

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Published: 09.07.20 , 13:55
This is an abomination. Israel's national interest has been sold for a mess of pottage.
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  • There is no other way to describe the government's u-turn on Sunday regarding its decision to impose strict measures in certain areas to curb the growing spread of coronavirus.
    The decision by a ministerial panel to impose lockdowns on municipalities with especially high morbidity was scrapped over a purely political calculation.
    סיור של בנימין נתניהו, יעקב ליצמן ומאיר בן שבת לקראת קבלת חולי הקורונה הישראלים בבית החולים שיבאסיור של בנימין נתניהו, יעקב ליצמן ומאיר בן שבת לקראת קבלת חולי הקורונה הישראלים בבית החולים שיבא
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister Yaakov Litzman
    (Photo: Shaul Golan)
    Israel is first among nations for the spread of COVID-19. Now was not supposed to be the time to lay blame. It should have been a time to give the handling of the pandemic over to the health professionals who labored over a structured plan for slowing the rising contagion by imposing restrictions on areas most infected by the virus.
    מחלקת קורונה בית חולים שיבא תל השומרמחלקת קורונה בית חולים שיבא תל השומר
    A coronavirus ward at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv
    (Photo: AFP)
    And in a long-awaited meeting last week, the politicians finally conceded that Gamzu's plan - including lockdowns - was the way forward.
    But some of the areas identified as red zones were ultra-Orthodox communities and so Haredi politicians first branded Gamzu an anti-Semite, despite his efforts to save lives, and then accused him of persecuting their communities.
    עשרות חסידי ברסלב מפגינים בירושלים נגד נתניהו  וגמזועשרות חסידי ברסלב מפגינים בירושלים נגד נתניהו  וגמזו
    An ultra-Orthodox protest against coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu in Jerusalem
    (Photo: David Perlmutter )
    What would they have preferred? Should he have imposed restrictions on communities where COVID-19 cases are low?
    Those same Haredi politicians on Sunday sent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a warning letter, threatening him with their ability to harm him politically.
    "You have branded us spreaders of disease," they wrote.
    חתונה המונית ברחובות חתונה המונית ברחובות
    Crowds at an ultra-Orthodox wedding in Rehovot last week
    (Photo: Nadav Abas)
    After years of imposing their will on the prime minister, these leaders understood how easily he can be frightened. Public health be damned; soaring numbers of sick and dying be damned.
    These are not public servants and the wellbeing of their communities is of no importance to them.
    Had they considered their constituents, they would have adopted the recommendations of the experts and made every possible effort to protect the health of their followers - including ensuring all educational institutions remain closed and especially the crowded yeshivas.
    But they are all too aware of the lack of courage of the man at the top.
    We the public had been told that by voting for Netanyahu, we would be getting a strong leader, but now we have come to realize that we what we got was a coward.
    The Arab sector has also become an infection hot spot. Local residents have disregarded health directives and held crowded celebrations during this wedding season. But at least their leaders have taken the responsibility for stopping these violations and curbing the spread of the virus.
    מודיעין עיליתמודיעין עילית
    Police close down a yeshiva violating closure in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi'in Ilit in March
    None of them branded Gamzu a racist or promoted campaigns to have his recommendations sidelined.
    Local and national leaders in the Arab community, including Joint List chair Ayman Odeh, have declared they will cooperate fully with health professionals.
    The Haredi population itself is not to blame. The problem lies with ultra-Orthodox leaders and the prime minister who capitulates to their demands.
    They are enemies of the public and must shoulder the blame for Israel's descent into the dishonorable list of most infected countries.
    What is the prime minister so afraid of? Do ultra-Orthodox ministers Aryeh Deri and Yaakov Litzman have a political alternative to him?
    תמונה של אריה דרעיתמונה של אריה דרעי
    Ultra Orthodox Interior Minister Aryeh Deri
    (Photo: Avi Moalem)
    Netanyahu's conduct on Sunday when he backed away from health experts' operational plan, was a clear manifestation of his years of kowtowing to his Haredi partners.
    The prime minister has once again opted for a short-term political win over the national interests. This has probably not afforded him any major gain.
    Worse, his public capitulation is sure to exact a high price that we will all be made to pay.
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