Trouble comes in multiples. If we zoom out for a moment, we’ll see the scope of the catastrophe. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has led Israel down a blind alley on every front.
The coronavirus failure can be explained by his refusal to finance the first lockdown. True, he quickly identified the danger, sealed off the country and shut down the economy. But in his pathological stinginess, he couldn’t bear the thought of opening the wallet (not his own, heaven forbid, but the state’s) and providing economic assistance to the people who were hurt by that decision.
That’s why he rushed to return to normal before everyone else – the first in the world – with the arrogance of someone who was sure he had outmaneuvered both the virus and the public, which would bear the burden of the economic damage without even noticing it. That’s how he left Israel vulnerable to the second wave.
Now he will have to pay double, but it’s already too late to help anyone. His populist handout is enough to provide a family with food for a week or two. Enabling people to take one trip to the supermarket isn’t what you’d call jump-starting the economy.
Netanyahu’s behavior pattern is familiar to the public from his dealings with Hamas, when he allowed Qatari “suitcases full of cash” to enter the Gaza Strip in 2018. In both cases, there’s no constructive logic, only panic and putting out fires. The only difference is the source of the money.
Just as suitcases with cash aren’t a substitute for diplomatic negotiations, Netanyahu’s aid package isn’t an economic policy, but a hysterical political move. Socialist logic, which takes each person’s abilities and needs into account, has been replaced with a grotesque parody of it – from each and to each, according to Netanyahu’s needs.
In The Hague, reality has proved once again that it’s not just a PR problem at the International Criminal Court. The court will soon decide whether to open an investigation against Israel and Hamas on suspicion of committing war crimes in the Palestinian territories from 2014 onward. The probe would target people who held senior positions during and after that year’s war in Gaza, including Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, former defense ministers, military chiefs of staff, directors of the Shin Bet security service and many others.
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Israel’s line of defense is a refined essence of Netanyahu’s modus operandi. The man who has devoted his life to preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state at any cost now dares to claim that the ICC has no authority to judge Israel because the Palestinian Authority isn’t a sovereign state. Jewish legal hairsplitting is the Palestinians’ hell. Shakespeare’s words in “The Merchant of Venice” still echo: “O, these deliberate fools! when they do choose, They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.”
Now Israel is drawing up a secret list of who might be arrested overseas. But why should Europe – which Netanyahu and his loyalists have repeatedly eulogized, and whose supposed weakness against Islam, Iran and even the coronavirus they have mocked – continue to restrain itself?
The list of problems Netanyahu has brought down on Israel also includes a report published in The New York Times this week about a draft agreement on economic and security cooperation that China and Iran have secretly drawn up. This is the moment to recall that visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus, which was meant to make it clear that U.S. President Donald Trump expected Israel to take America’s side in the cold war he was evidently instigating against China.
Lo and behold, even with regard to the Iranian threat, Netanyahu has maneuvered Israe onto a front that’s no less dangerous – and some would say far more so. Reality is starting to catch up with Netanyahu’s megalomania. But as usual, Israel will be the one paying.