There is no more shame. That is the only lesson one can draw from the cynical letter Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent on Monday night to the heads of the Knesset opposition: Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Joint List leader Ayman Odeh.
In his letter, Netanyahu accused the four of undermining the government’s efforts – which carry on “day and night,” he wrote – to combat the spread of the coronavirus. If that was not enough, he directly accused them – for serving as an opposition in a democracy – of putting lives in danger.
If this letter wasn’t real, it might be excused for being a joke. The fact that Netanyahu wrote it shows his cynicism knows no bounds.
He is the prime minister of this country, and he is responsible for what is happening here. It was he who led Israel from the success it saw during the first wave in March, April and May to the utter failure in which it now finds itself during the current wave.
Placing the blame on members of the opposition is a sad attempt at what most people learn in elementary school: take responsibility for your actions. Don’t run away from it.
Just look at what has happened only since last Thursday. That day, the coronavirus cabinet approved a lockdown on “red” cities, which was supposed to go into effect on Monday.
Netanyahu was supposed to convene his ministers on Sunday and finalize the plans, but he came under pressure from his haredi (ultra-Orthodox) coalition partners, threatening him with political backlash.
Their campaign included a letter from four heads of haredi towns, who said that they would not go along with the new restrictions if they were imposed.
That was enough for Netanyahu – who recognized he could lose the last coalition partner he has – to do a flip-flop. It was also enough for him to take the plan put together by the country’s coronavirus commissioner, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, and simply throw it out the window.
That it had the support of the Health Ministry and had already been approved in the cabinet meant nothing. Politics was calling.
The same thing happened last week ahead of the new school year. The cabinet decided at the end of August to open all of the schools, including those in “red” cities. Then on the eve of the school year, at 11 p.m., the government changed its mind, just hours before the schools were set to open.
This doesn’t have to be said, but I will anyway: In the midst of a pandemic, the last thing a country with the highest rate of per-capita infections in the world needs is confusion, flip-flops and political peddling.
This is not irresponsibleness. It is outright negligence.
It is time for everyone to recognize what is happening. Netanyahu is preferring his political survival over the health of his country. This was made clear throughout the three rounds of elections he dragged Israel through, and became clear again this week. Netanyahu has one goal in mind and one goal only: how to politically maneuver to somehow stay in power, and if possible, also avoid his bribery trial.
This is not leadership. It is anarchy.
Leadership is taking a stand, and doing what might come at a political price but doing it because it is the right thing to do, especially during this ongoing war against coronavirus.
Anarchy is when you flip-flop so often that people lose track of what is even right. Thus it is no surprise that Netanyahu attacks the opposition, trying to deflect some of the fire directed his way. At the very least, he figures, the public will think there are more people to blame than just him.
The thing is, there are not. He is the prime minister, and he is to blame. In the end, it is he who is failing.
Header: Israeli police officers patrol on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, June 25, 2020.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Original: Yaakov Katz – JPost