This pandemic is a war like no other

Opinion: Unlike during military conflicts, Israel's leaders have been found to be unprepared for the coronavirus outbreak, unable to recognize its danger and adapt, and unwilling to implement methods to deal with it quickly and effectively

Giora Eiland |
The break out of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, 47 years ago, was the manifestation of failure that led to disaster.
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  • There are many similarities that can be found between then and now, during the 2020 coronavirus crisis: the hubris exhibited by our leaders, their tardiness in recognizing the immense threat, the mistakes that were made and their unfortunate consequences.
    3 View gallery
    בנימין נתניהו הצהרה נגיף קורונה
    בנימין נתניהו הצהרה נגיף קורונה
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Health Minister Yaakov Litzman addressing the nation at the start of the coronavirus pandemic
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    Still, there are also significant differences.
    It is true that the failure of the political leadership led to the catastrophic start of the Yom Kippur War, but just three days later the country came to its senses, adjusted expectations, redefined missions, and learned lessons on the fly.
    Despite the errors that were made, the "system" proved solid enough to sustain the initial shock, thanks to a strong military that had the know-how and the ability to enlist the necessary resources. Even the politicians found a way to operate in relative harmony with the professional military experts.
    Back to today. As early as January it should have been evident that a new kind of national crisis was upon us.
    Unlike its preparations for war, Israel had no system set up to deal with such a challenge.
    It did, however, have time. Two months elapsed between the realization that a pandemic had begun and the appearance of the first Israeli COVID-19 case. This was a considerable amount of time had our leaders only recognized the immensity of the crisis, but they did not.
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    קניון הדר
    קניון הדר
    Israelis wear masks while shopping at a Jerusalem mall during the pandemic
    (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
    Two major mistakes were made, for which we continue to pay.
    The first mistake was failing to understand the gravity of the situation. Although it is a disease, COVID-19 did not present a medical problem that could be solved by physicians, but a multi-faceted national crisis.
    The second and even more significant mistake was the refusal of decision-makers to accept that without a well-planned system in place, the country would not be able to deal with the problem.
    Humanity has reached its current heights because people were able to put in place organized systems.
    Any organization, from a simple 100-strong industrial plant to a modern airport and all the way up to a well-run nation, relies on a method of management that delegates authority downwards and utilizes hundreds of managers over multiple levels, not only to achieve operational goals but also to make the right professional decisions.
    Even with a genius at the head of our military, we would not have been able to win a war without platoon, battalion or unit commanders who were familiar with their areas of responsibility and knew even more than the chief of staff what the right decisions were.
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    רוני גמזו ""מתנצל בפני החברה החרדית אם הרגישה שאנחנו מסמנים אותה"
    רוני גמזו ""מתנצל בפני החברה החרדית אם הרגישה שאנחנו מסמנים אותה"
    Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu
    (Photo: Tomer Appelbaum)
    The recent criticism hurled at the government, that it had not granted proper authority to it appointed coronavirus czar, misses the point. Prof. Ronni Gamzu is at best a general without an army.
    It is also crucial to understand that it is not the sole responsibility of the government to make decisions. On the contrary, it must put in place a system comprising hundreds of people able to decide on appropriate steps in their specific purview at any given time and in accordance with a clear hierarchy.
    Furthermore, the test of success is not in the quality of decisions made but rather in the ability to carry them out, monitor them and correct them immediately if necessary.
    For that to happen a coronavirus general must be mobilized, able to put in place the needed methodology and to deploy his "troops" - the hospitals, local municipalities, IDF Home Front Command and more.
    The commanders of those troops would then present the government with issues requiring approval on the political–national level and not the micro-tactical one.
    No czar or adviser, no matter how talented, can carry out such a mission alone. It is time to learn from our mistakes.
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