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Bennett Should Be Appointed to Handle Coronavirus Crisis

Nehemia Shtrasler
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Naftali Bennett (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting of the right-wing parties in the Knesset, Jerusalem, March 4, 2020.
Naftali Bennett (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting of the right-wing parties in the Knesset, Jerusalem, March 4, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Nehemia Shtrasler

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon knew Benjamin Netanyahu very well. Back in 2005, he said, “That man is easily stressed out and vulnerable to pressure. He always goes into a panic and loses his cool. But to run this country, you need judgment and nerves of steel, two things he doesn’t have.”

That’s so true – it’s Bibi in a nutshell. So nobody should be surprised that this panic artist is leading us into health and economic disasters of enormous proportions. It’s no surprise that he has flip-flopped endlessly, made decisions based on his personal interests, run the battle chaotically (see the farce of Gabi Barbash’s “appointment” as coronavirus czar), spent June preoccupied with his own outlays on his car and his villa rather than dealing with the pandemic, and insisted, in the craziest step imaginable, on not transferring management of the crisis to the only agencies that could handle it – the Defense Ministry and the Home Front Command – just to prevent his former and current defense ministers, Naftali Bennett and Benny Gantz, from racking up any kind of achievement.

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But Israel hasn’t been orphaned. We also have other politicians who are Netanyahu’s opposites. The most prominent of them is Bennett, who has taken the coronavirus issue seriously.

Over the past few months, he has become the Energizer bunny – running around, taking action and coming up with new ideas. He has stood against Netanyahu like a beacon of sanity. He has studied the data in depth and understands very well that what we need right now aren’t additional restrictions – and certainly not a lockdown, like Netanyahu and his submissive servants want.

Bennett understands that another lockdown would definitively destroy the economy and send us into a deep, prolonged depression with horrendous unemployment, terrifying poverty, bankruptcies and suicides that would dwarf the damage caused by the virus itself. He knows that the number of seriously ill patients is under control and the number of fatalities is low. We’re the lowest in Europe when it comes to the number of deaths, and that is ultimately what matters.

Naftali Bennett is seen in the Knesset on swearing in day, May 17, 2020.
Naftali Bennett is seen in the Knesset on swearing in day, May 17, 2020.Credit: Alex Kolomoisky

Bennett is the only member of either the Knesset or the cabinet who has an orderly plan for defeating the virus. He’s already had it for three months.

From day one, he said it’s essential to increase the number of tests to tens of thousands per day and isolate carriers in hotels rather than at home. But Netanyahu objected.

For months, Bennett has demanded that we set up a contact tracing system to break the chain of infection, but Bibi has only 500 contract tracers instead of the 4,000 we need. Moreover, a large portion of them are still writing down patients’ answers by hand rather than entering them directly into a computer. High-tech nation, my foot.

Back when he was defense minister, Bennett asked Netanyahu to give him “overall responsibility for the testing system.” Netanyahu laughed. He should give Bennett an achievement?

Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kochavi urged Netanyahu to do the same at that time. Bibi got angry and reprimanded him.

Today, Bennett says we need to reduce the number of new patients to 50 a day. That would enable us to return to normal economic and cultural activity, subject to the conditions necessitated by the virus. And I believe he’s capable of achieving this.

Therefore, if we want to live, we need to force Netanyahu to appoint Bennett as health minister, just like Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was forced to appoint Moshe Dayan as defense minister in the run-up to the 1967 Six-Day War.

Current Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish must go home. They have failed to do their jobs. They haven’t even managed to set up an effective contact tracing system. The only things they do know how to do are prattle on television and threaten us with lockdowns.

In addition, Bennett should replace Netanyahu as chairman of the coronavirus cabinet. That is the main power center for managing the pandemic, so his appointment would make it impossible for anyone to torpedo his plans.

You’ll doubtless say there isn’t a chance in the world of this happening. After all, Bibi is afraid of Bennett. But I have news for you: Israel’s economic safety margin has been exhausted. We’re in a deep recession, with an enormous deficit, an insane debt and a million people unemployed. In a moment, the world will stop lending to us, and then we’ll be in a financial crisis so severe that it will make the crisis in Greece look like child’s play.

Netanyahu actually has no choice. Either he appoints Bennett to these two posts, or the demonstrations will oust him from office. And we’re rapidly nearing that point.

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