Opinion

Netanyahu Rises to the Challenges Posed by the Coronavirus. But You're Still Not Satisfied

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, surrounded by members of his government, family and supporters, celebrates Hannukah at the Dan Panorama hotel, Tel Aviv, December 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

The leaders of the “anyone but Bibi” party are negotiating with the “only Bibi” party about establishing an emergency unity government. In short, what was once treyf is now kosher.

The main argument, to borrow a phrase variously attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Churchill and others, is over the price that will be paid to the Kahol Lavan party’s council of sages in exchange for this legitimization. The party is demanding that its chairman, Benny Gantz, serve as prime minister first. He is the right man at this fateful hour.

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If this is truly the moment when all the creatures of the world will be judged, the man most appropriate to manage it – and there’s no comparison – is Benjamin Netanyahu. In their heart of hearts, even Kahol Lavan’s leaders think so.

Therefore, until the storm passes, they must set aside all his sins, weaknesses and lies, unite behind him and help him lead us from darkness to light. Only after we have overcome this disaster, may it happen soon, will it be possible to return to the “ordinary” agenda.

It’s a pity that even at this time, when he is leading the struggle for national salvation with notable success, Netanyahu hasn’t changed his style. The perpetual, repulsive bragging – the essence of which is “I ordered,” “I initiated,” “Thanks to my ties with world leaders” – hasn’t departed from his grimacing face or his eloquent tongue.

Nevertheless, this boastfulness seems to imbue a sizable portion of the public with confidence. We have a leader, one can hear them saying – a leader who knows how to deal with a global disaster skillfully and authoritatively.

His opponents accuse him of being hesitant and not knowing how to make decisions? The opposite is true. Look at the balanced, life-saving decisions he is making every day and every hour. Others would have collapsed under the strain and the weight of the responsibility. Yes, he is surprising us.

In the absence of grounds for genuine, substantive criticism of his performance in these days of anxiety, the “anyone but Bibi” camp has undergone a transformation: It is now focusing on a fear-mongering campaign about “the end of democracy.” The people who share this fear ought to explain something: You denounce the ultra-Orthodox, who are continuing to study in yeshivas. Yet you rule out digital tracking of people who have come into contact with coronavirus patients.

And in so doing, just like the ultra-Orthodox, you are endangering many lives. Isn’t this sheer hatred of the ultra-Orthodox? Isn’t it a violation of “thou shalt not take the name of democracy in vain”?

Who would cooperate with Netanyahu in a coup that would end democracy? The head of the Shin Bet security service, who comes from one of the kibbutz movements? The army’s chief of staff, who is poles apart from him politically? The Armored Corps in their tanks? The pilots in their fighter planes? Hatred is driving you out of your minds.

Jephthah the Gileadite was ostracized by most of his generation. As the Bible says, he surrounded himself with “hollow people.” Yet at a moment of supreme danger, he was called upon, despite his weaknesses and his misdeeds, to save Israel from the Ammonites. The rabbis of the Talmud subsequently compared him to one of the Bible’s greatest prophets and political leaders: “Jephthah in his generation was like Samuel in his generation.”

Israeli PM Netanyahu announces measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak, Jerusalem, March 12, 2020.
Ohad Zwigenberg

A pandemic is no less dangerous than a war. And just as we know how to unite in wartime, we must also unite now, when the coronavirus may well threaten us more than any war we have ever known. When the danger passes, the nation will settle accounts with anyone who continues to behave like it was still last year.

Who is a national poet? Someone whose poems imbue the people with faith and hope in times of trouble and survive (and remain relevant) for generations.

In his monumental poem “To the Volunteers among the People,” written between 1889 and 1900, Haim Nahman Bialik wrote, “To the aid of the people! To the aid of the people! / With what? Don’t ask – with whatever comes to hand! / With whom? Don’t investigate – with anyone whose heart moves him to volunteer! / Anyone whose heart is touched by the nation’s woes ... The camp will muster / Let us not separate ourselves / Every victim will serve / Every gift is trustworthy: / You don’t investigate at a time of danger.”