Every decision Netanyahu makes is tainted and motivated by what is good for him personally, and not for the country.
Did they ever get along?
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
It is time to admit that it is simply not working. This government is a failure. It is that simple. There is no other way to say it. Every decision is politicized; everything is made into a game.
If peoples’ lives were not on the line, we might be able to ignore what is happening; to push it away and pretend that everything is okay. But with Israel’s infection rate staggering – on Thursday it climbed to nearly 4,000 infections in one day – this has got to stop.
In short, this government needs to go home.
Set up to fight the coronavirus, this government has done nothing. Instead, it has fought against itself from its inception.
And the writing was on the wall.
Benjamin Netanyahu is in the middle of a criminal trial, facing a lengthy jail sentence if convicted of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and the only true priority he has right now is fighting for his innocence – at all costs. Everything else is not important.
In November when the prime minister was indicted, I wrote: “As talented as Netanyahu is, he can’t go to court in the morning and fight for his freedom, and then come back to the office in the afternoon to convene the security cabinet and approve airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria. The prime minister will be distracted, unfocused and unable to properly execute his duties.
“Moreover, any move a prime minister makes in such a position would be viewed suspiciously: was it done to sway public opinion? Nothing will be looked at purely. Everything will be tainted… Staying in office, as Netanyahu indicated he will do, will eat away at Israel’s moral character from the inside. Is this the type of leadership we want at the helm of our nation?”
Afterward I came under fire from Netanyahu supporters, who falsely claimed that the prime minister could manage both the country and his trial – and anyhow, Israeli law allows him to remain in office even under indictment.
They were wrong.
SINCE THE beginning of this health crisis seven months ago, we’ve seen that every decision Netanyahu makes is tainted and motivated by what is good for him personally, and not for the country.
You don’t even have to go that far back to BC – before corona. Just look at last month’s fight over the budget. The leader of the government had originally signed the coalition agreement saying he would pass a two-year budget. But when the deadline neared, he balked, claiming that he would only agree if Blue and White relinquished its veto right over the appointment of a new police chief, attorney-general and state prosecutor. Gantz refused and Netanyahu refused, leaving the country without a budget in one of, if not the worst economic crises it has ever known.
Then there was the fiasco over the lockdown of Israel’s “red” cities. The cabinet decided last Thursday to impose a closure on some 30 cities – mostly Arab and haredi (ultra-Orthodox) – where the infection numbers remain out of control. The decision was supposed to go into effect on Monday evening.
But just hours before that, Netanyahu came under pressure from his last loyal veteran coalition partners – the haredi parties. They made it clear that if he locks down their cities – as if it was being done for a personal vendetta – Netanyahu will pay a political price.
Netanyahu surrendered, and suddenly a lockdown became a curfew, and a curfew became some random and confusing restrictions.
So when massive weddings were then held in haredi and Arab communities on Tuesday night without adhering to restrictions, should anyone really have been surprised?
This wasn’t the first time that the government flip-flopped on decisions impacting the entire nation.
UMAN IS another example. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine told The Jerusalem Post this week that he was specifically asked by Israel weeks ago to restrict access to the grave of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov for Rosh Hashanah.
This was supposed to happen, until the haredim again threatened Netanyahu. Suddenly, when he saw his coalition crumbling, it was no longer a public health risk for thousands of hassidim to go to Ukraine – a risk coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu specifically said Israel could not allow.
The education system for over two million students is yet a fourth example. At 11 p.m. on Monday night, nine hours before the opening bell, the government changed its mind and closed schools in red cities. Kids who had gone to sleep excited about going back to school after their first summer of corona woke up to the disappointing news that they were staying home once again.
But who cares, right?
Then there is the infighting within the government, which we witnessed this week with an unprecedented assault against the police, the prosecutors and the courts by Netanyahu and his fellow Likud members. One of them, an extreme MK by the name of Shlomo Kari, threatened to take a D9 bulldozer and raze the Justice Ministry building if the attorney-general dared change his mind and rule that Netanyahu has to recuse himself from the premiership.
In response, Benny Gantz – the leader of Blue and White who still walks around with the title of alternate prime minister – put out a video saying that his party will not allow the attacks against the justice system to succeed. “Stand tall,” he told them. “We will protect you.”
This is Israel in 2020: one prime minister attacks and the other defends.
AND THEN there is the signing ceremony in Washington next week of the UAE deal, a historic milestone for Israel marking the establishment of normalized ties with a powerful Gulf state.
But in what world does Netanyahu think that it makes sense for him to fly for four days to the US? That it makes sense for him to leave the country when there are 4,000 new infections every day and we are facing a month-long lockdown?
These aren’t just any four days either. Next Friday night is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and one of the most festive holidays on the Jewish calendar. With Netanyahu in Washington, there is little chance that any decision will be made on a lockdown or restrictions for the holiday – he wouldn’t want declaring those restrictions to overshadow his celebratory photo-op at the White House.
So, what will happen? Judging by the dysfunctionality of this government until now, when Netanyahu lands back in Israel on Wednesday afternoon, he’ll start holding meetings, and by Friday morning, if we are lucky, we will find out what we are allowed to do over the holiday – which starts that evening.
Two other points to keep in mind regarding that UAE signing ceremony. First, the deal will be signed on Tuesday morning. That means that Netanyahu can theoretically leave Israel on Monday night, fly directly to Washington, and fly back to Israel on Tuesday night arriving on Wednesday afternoon. This would give him Sunday and Monday to work on what is more important right now for Israel: saving Israeli lives.
As for the actual signing: Netanyahu will represent Israel, but the UAE will be represented by its foreign minister, Abdullah Bin Zayed. Why Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed is not coming is a mystery itself, but if the foreign minister is signing on behalf of the UAE, then according to diplomatic protocol – as explained to me by a few ex-diplomats who know a thing or two about signing protocols – the foreign minister should sign on Israel’s behalf as well.
This is routinely done, by the way, when foreign ministers sign and heads of state stand behind them. But not in Israel, where Netanyahu is the prime minister and Gabi Ashkenazi is the foreign minister. Does anyone think that Netanyahu is going to share the picture of the historic signing with one of his political rivals? Of course not.
But Netanyahu doesn’t care, and Gantz doesn’t seem to care that much either – or is too weak to do anything about it. On Sunday, when Netanyahu’s fight with the haredim became clear, Gantz paid a trip to Bnai Brak, something he hadn’t done since taking office in May. Until now, Gantz’s influence over the decision making when it comes to COVID-19 has been limited at best and mostly non-existent.
But this week he suddenly came alive, visiting haredi cities, hospitals and more. Is it because of the growing number of infections? Is it because Israel crossed 1,000 deaths? Whom are we kidding? It is for one reason and one reason only: Netanyahu is getting blamed for the failures, so Gantz sees a political opportunity to step up and fill the void.
Nice try – but it’s too late. Gantz will have to do a lot more than simply visit corona-stricken towns and hospitals to regain the public’s trust, just like Netanyahu will have to do a lot more than just cut short his trip to DC for us to believe that he cares about the public.
Israel is in an unprecedented crisis, and this government is not functioning. It is time for it to go home.