Opinion

Netanyahu Talks Unity. I Don’t Believe Him

Netanyahu giving a statement in Jerusalem, March 14, 2020
Alex Kolomoisky

You really want to believe him. It’s a sensitive time, full of uncertainty, so one looks to the leader. But what can you do? His messages just don’t go down smoothly. Every wave of the hand, every blink – it all looks like his usual theatrics. When he says: “Let’s not use tricks” or “let’s put aside the cynicism,” one feels an uncontrollable fit of laughter welling up inside.

You recall a recent occasion, not long ago, in which he delivered a dramatic speech to the nation about the state of emergency that we all have to prepare for – all in order to suppress an ultimatum presented by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett. And then there was the time, just recently, after the second election, when he assumed his authoritarian pose, his secret-whisper voice, to inform us that unity is essential due to the sensitive issues that Benny Gantz knows about, and hinting at a looming apocalyptic war with Iran.

Israel's coronavirus crisis could be Bibi's swan song. Haaretz weekly podcast

Benjamin Netanyahu has reached the stage of the chronically deceitful husband: Some of us wouldn’t believe he was in the hospital even if he produced a doctor’s note.

There is a rational basis for this lack of trust. Netanyahu explained the need for a unity government based on the urgency of passing a state budget. What’s stopping him from getting the budget approved? Kahol Lavan would support any budget at this point.

At 1:18 A.M. on Sunday, Netanyahu’s justice minister announced a 24-hour suspension of all judicial system activities. For some reason, this decision wasn’t marketed along with the other steps that were announced at 9 P.M.

Netanyahu initially presented his proposal for an emergency government live, on television – not a real confidence-building move. Then he disappeared. The next day he loaded some content into that proposal.

We don’t know much about the novel coronavirus, but it has a quantifiable value for a ruler. It’s worth one year.

Ten days ago, Netanyahu’s people offered Kahol Lavan a unity government, with him as prime minister for the first year and Gantz for the following two. Ten days later, Netanyahu wants to be chief for the first two years, and only then followed by Gantz.

When the second intifada broke out in October 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak wanted to set up an emergency unity government with Likud leader Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu wanted an election, in order to topple Barak. Why was it okay to deal with politics then, but not now? What is it in the challenge posed by the virus that demands an emergency government? There were no emergency governments in October 1973, during the Gulf War or during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Does anyone really think that Netanyahu would be talking about a national emergency government if his bloc numbered 61 Knesset seats?

Every press conference he holds contains unending self-praise. The entire world is learning from us, we’re in the best position compared to all others, etc. Netanyahu fans buy into this. On the two most important fronts, apparently necessary for managing this crisis, we’re actually lagging behind: There is an acute shortage of respirators and a relatively small number of Covid-19 tests being conducted. The Prophet Netanyahu, praised by his son for the fact that he convened a meeting over the weekend to discuss the virus, did not make provision for these two items on time.

Yes, he puts on a good show on TV, and that’s important. When handling crises, it’s of great importance that the person at the top of the pyramid gives regular reports to the public. Netanyahu does this well. But are these appearances so important that it is forbidden to remove him at a time of crisis?

Netanyahu is prone to paranoia and doomsday scenarios. He always has been. He saw a nonexistent putsch by Lapid-Livni-Lieberman in 2014 and decided to hold an election. He talked about a putsch organized by Likud lawmaker Gideon Sa’ar and President Reuven Rivlin.

The willingness to employ the super-invasive technological methods at the disposal of the Shin Bet security service for contending with the coronavirus seems like pretty good proof that this leader needs replacing. Ultimately, corona may turn out to be a miracle landing on our political system.

A rotation government with Netanyahu at the top for one year and Gantz for the next two seems like a solution that even Kahol Lavan’s Yair Lapid cannot reject at a time like this.