The steep drop in the numbers of new coronavirus cases in Israel is creating the illusion of a return to routine. In fact, the return is partial because entire sectors of the economy are still paralyzed or operating under restrictions. Moreover, a return to normal of Israel’s trade with other countries, and certainly the return of air travel and foreign tourism, depend to a large extent on the development of a vaccine for the virus.
The progress towards a vaccine that has been reported separately by an American company and Oxford University has breathed optimism into the situation in recent days, but in the best case it will take many months until the development of the vaccine is completed. And after that, it will take a tremendous worldwide effort to vaccinate most of the population of the world. This is a huge millstone around the neck of the world economy.
Apparently, the long economic crisis that is looming was a major consideration in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to establish the unity government that was sworn in last week, together with half of what had been the Kahol Lavan slate.
Like U.S. President Donald Trump but for a longer time, Netanyahu has boasted of the constant improvement in his voters’ standard of living.
Now he wants to share the responsibility for a period of downturn that citizens will experience on their own skin.
This burden, too, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi will share. However, it appears that their success will be measured by the extent of their ability to rein in both Netanyahu’s plan for a unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank and the coordinated attack he is leading on the judiciary system.
The Israeli media have devoted many pages and innumerable minutes of air time to the unprecedented size of the unity government, and the waste of money involved in breaking government ministries down into illogical fractions of their former selves. However, it is possible that this fragmentation was not only a means for placating the Likud government ministers, the ultra-Orthodox parties and the defectors from the left bloc, but was also done for its own sake. .
The new government has a single supreme aim: ensuring the political survival of the prime minister, who will set a precedent Sunday when he begins to stand trial on a triple indictment. The political chaos that has been created is in fact part of this legal matter.
This is a huge, divided, contentious government in which senior, experienced ministers have been left without roles, others have been given portfolios they didn’t even want, and power and authority have been ripped away from ministries with no reason, and reconfigured to create fictive portfolios.
This farce serves only Netanyahu. Most of the Liked ministers have been reduced in stature and humiliated by their very acceptance of the positions they were given, while his rivals from Kahol Lavan were dragged into the government for lack of an alternative, in conditions favorable to him. Only he alone, in the center, looks like someone who has retained his power.
On the other side of the globe, the United States of America is now paying the price for electing Trump. Israel, thanks in part to important decisions Netanyahu took at the right time, has been spared similar damage in dealing with the coronavirus. However, when we examine what is happening here of late – the demonstrative corruption, the low obsequiousness towards the ruler, the quasi-regal attributes he is adopting (and the deputy prime minister in his wake) – it is hard not to wonder whether the time will come when we too will begin to pay the sort of price Americans face.
The rare conjunction this summer of an unprecedented trial, a major economic crisis and an absurd, dangerous annexation plan is liable to provide the spark that ends in a conflagration.
Source: Amos Harel – HAARETZ