Opinion

The Coronavirus Pandemic Serves Netanyahu’s Political Interests

Netanyahu demonstrates how to use a tissue when coughing, during a press conference on March 11, 2020.
Ohad Zwigenberg

It would be only human if a small prayer crept into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s heart these days for the coronavirus pandemic to expand in the country where he has been prime minister longer than any other person, and where he aspires to continue to serve as prime minister more than any other person aspires to anything at all in life.

His subjects, thanks to the terrifying television broadcasts, have become a hysterical herd. They have gone into war mode. It’s as if this war fell out of the sky as a gift to Netanyahu. But it’s not just luck. It’s also brains. Netanyahu refused to resign and refused to give up. Campaign after campaign, he grasps at his seat like a drowning person grasps at driftwood floating in the middle of the sea. He grasps and grasps and refuses to let go, until the ship comes along to carry him to safe haven, the corona ship.

This war appeared like a miracle, and what a wonderful gift it is for Netanyahu – almost as good as a Knesset majority of 61. Because he didn’t initiate it, but he profits from it, as he does from the fear of the terrified herd of Israelis for whom existential anxiety is a religion, and who as usual in wartime, cries out for unity. Isolation in the homes, togetherness in the hearts.

It’s not a conspiracy. The steps taken to restrict the damage from the epidemic and the scary television broadcasts do not stem from political motives. But the corona hysteria serves Netanyahu’s political interests. That’s the beauty of it, the sophistication of it, as a life raft. It’s the perfect Machiavellian move that nature created for Netanyahu. It’s surefire proof that he is God’s messenger.

With the help of the Lord, viruses enlisted for him with perfect timing. Only a higher power could have arranged such a perfect plan, which began in a market in far-off China and ended with the promise of Netanyahu’s continued rule. The butterfly effect: A person eats a bat in China, and a few months later the skin of Israel’s prime minister is saved.

The Israeli corona hysteria stinks of political interests and no one is to blame. The herd is so terrified that it’s not willing to listen to logical statements begging it to remain calm. It lunges furiously at anyone who claims that this epidemic is not a matter of life and death that overrides politics. Bibi’s supporters and opponents both are increasingly rallying around the supreme order to unite, which states that all politics now are petty, that it’s a time of national emergency, which even outweighs wars in Lebanon and operations in Gaza.

When the coronavirus crisis passes, the Israelis will wake up from their trance, open their eyes and realize that politics is exactly what happens while they’re being afraid of corona. To put it more precisely: The corona crisis in Israel is the most influential political move that has taken place here in years. Because after the corona wave is over, the Israelis will discover that Netanyahu is head of a unity government, that his trial has been postponed and that the opportunity to oust him democratically is past. Reasons for perpetuating the state of emergency will not be lacking: the Iranian gallop toward a bomb, the unprecedented global economic crisis, a population in post-trauma.

When the coronavirus passes, people will not want to hear about elections. They will want to rehabilitate, they will want to live, to get back to normal. Corona, mon amour, they’ll say. We were in a tailspin and you came to make order in our lives. The Arabs are still Arabs. The Jews are still Jews. You organized a war for us and brought out the best in us. You saved us from an political Gordian knot. Who cares about democracy and the rule of law when the end of the world arrives? You reminded us of what’s important: Life itself.