Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should have seen the ultra-Orthodox parties’ “revolt” in terms of agreeing to any restrictions on Haredi communities over the coronavirus pandemic.
It started to weeks ago when United Torah Judaism leader and former Health Minister Yakov Litzman demanded coronavirus commissioner Professor Ronni Gamzu resign over his recommendation to impose a lockdown on Haredi cities where morbidity rates are extremely high.
Gamzu’s “stoplight system,” dividing Israeli into “red,” “orange,” “yellow,” and “green,” cities according to infection and morbidity rates, was supposed to be determined using purely professional, objective standard.
But once this system was tainted by political considerations, the public’s faith in it has been damaged beyond repair.
Only a few months ago, millions of Israelis were instructed to stay home and were allowed to venture no more than 100 meters (yards) outside their front door. Countless businesses were shuttered, recreational venues were deserted and synagogues emptied – all because the public had faith in the path dictated by the government in the fight against COVID-19.
This is no longer the case.
The public has made it clear it will not adhere to another imposed lockdown.
Law enforcement can deal with rioters or outlaws – not with the entire population.
Any dialogue with the Haredi community should have been pursued months ago. If the mayors of corona-plagued Bnei Brak and Elad have hard data showing that the spike in morbidity rates in their localities is the result of testing yeshiva students who actually reside elsewhere – someone should take the time to examine the figures. If they are right – there’s no need to place their cities under quarantine. If they are wrong, then they – and with them, the Haredi MKs, rabbis, and other community leaders must accept Gamzu’s decree without fail.
But no one took the time to check anything, hence the frustration and the “mutiny.”
The anti-government protests also only further undermine the public’s trust in the government.
You can argue all you want that there is no data suggesting mass rallies have a higher risk of spreading COVID-19 – the fact of the matter is that allowing them to continue while imposing restrictions only on Haredi mass gatherings fosters an air of discrimination.
The Haredi leaders are currently meeting with anyone how irks Netanyahu – from Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, to Yesh Atid’s Ofer Shelah, to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.
Their goal is clearly to make Netanyahu nervous and show him that he cannot afford to their support for granted; and that if he keeps sacrificing their interests, they just may find other worthy political partners.
Netanyahu got the message – and his capitulation was predictable.
Ultra-Orthodox voters adore Netanyahu. They see no other leader they can partner with and their politicians understand that, showing steadfast loyalty to Likud and its leader in every election campaign.
Now, however, there are cracks in the veneer. If Netanyahu fails them now, Haredi MKs will not hesitate to transfer their loyalty.
Original: Mati Tuchfeld – Israel Hayom