Israel needs true leadership now

Opinion: The contagion can be fought, but to do this Netanyahu needs to set an example, and he can rise to the occasion by reaching necessary agreements with Gantz, containing the Likud malcontents and engaging in less politicking

Ben-Dror Yemini|
These dogs days in Israel, with the coronavirus crisis raging uncontrollably across the country, have exposed our leaders in all their pettiness.
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  • Voices can be heard here and there in Israel blaming the public for failing to adhere to health regulations during the devastating pandemic - and while these accusations hold do some merit, it is the leadership that is truly culpable, not the people.
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    מליאת הכנסת
    מליאת הכנסת
    Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset
    (Photo: The Knesset)
    Any sliver of uncertainty about why the current precarious situation is the fault of the country’s leadership can easily be erased by listening to the comments from coalition chairman Likud MK Miki Zohar during the debate on the legislation to ban public protests.
    From his seat on high, Zohar aggressively attacked a speech by Yesh Atid MK Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh, the first Druze Israeli woman to become a Knesset member, calling it nothing less than “disgusting and gross.”
    The only disgusting and gross thing about the entire incident was Zohar's behavior.
    There was certainly nothing disgusting or gross in the speech made by Kamal-Mreeh, who read out a letter to her son, apologizing for the course Israel's government has taken in deciding to prohibit protests.
    It’s unprecedented for someone in Zohar's lofty position to interrupt a Knesset discussion in such an egregious manner.
    3 View gallery
    Yesh Atid MK Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh
    Yesh Atid MK Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh
    Yesh Atid MK Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh
    (Photo: Archive)
    Israel is in the throes of one of the gravest crises in its history. The coronavirus pandemic is raging through us and tearing us apart from within.
    While many countries have managed to contain or even outright defeat the contagion, in Israel the pandemic is only getting worse with each passing day.
    There are various reasons for this and one of them is this country’s leadership.
    The government's coronavirus cabinet is more akin to a debate club whose members are more interested in politicking and personal interests than helping this ailing country out of the mire.
    The coronavirus crisis was the main justification for the formation of the unity government and many compromises were made for the sake of that coalition.
    Yet the moment the government was formed in April, we were plunged into an era of adversity and endless dispute. And the virus has still been spreading all this time.
    There has not been one single moment in which an agreement was reached regarding the heart of the matter.
    Almost all the decisions made regarding the pandemic have been made under duress, and usually in complete opposition to the position of the experts.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues regular calls for the public to adhere to health regulations, but for the public to listen, a sliver of cohesion is needed from the leadership.
    This is not a argument on the fate of the West Bank or on judicial activism - this is life and death.
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    התקהלות בחוף הים המופרד בבת ים
    התקהלות בחוף הים המופרד בבת ים
    Israelis flock to Bat Yam beach during the pandemic, despite health regulations
    (Photo:Bat Yam Municipality)
    In any sane state, agreement would have been reached by the government on this most dire of issues, and it would have been accepted by the majority of the public.
    In Israel it isn’t so. In a time when Israelis are begging for solidarity, the politicians are crushing any hope of it.
    The contagion can be fought, but to do so Netanyahu needs to show real leadership. He must reach certain agreements with coalition partner Defense Minister Benny Gantz and restrain the Likud malcontents spreading hate and bile.
    This means making decisions based on the public’s needs, listening to the experts, and toning down the politicking.
    If and when this happens, he will find the public ready to cooperate in kind.
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