Opinion

We Deserve Another Chance

Zvi Bar'el
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Protesters at a protest encampment in a Jerusalem park, July 29, 2020.
Protesters at a protest encampment in a Jerusalem park, July 29, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Zvi Bar'el

What could be worse than what’s already happening here? The government is headed by a corrupt and corrupting man who, in another five months, will start running the country’s affairs by WhatsApp from his courtroom. His decisions are made with one voice, his own, force-fed by a lunatic pair of advisers who live in his house and dictate his agenda and that of the state.

Nor are they even paid advisers or civil servants, who could be fired. If Benjamin Netanyahu wins, so do they. Anyone who wants Bibi has to accept the whole package.

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But the other cabinet members aren’t exactly models of wisdom or managerial ability either. The finance minister has been given power to waste the state’s money with no transparency, no supervision and no restraints. The education minister doesn’t know how the upcoming school year will look and is promising to fund cultural events in schools from unknown sources. The minister for higher education and water resources is evidently doing something important, as evidenced by the random juxtaposition of his two titles.

And the health minister, the man responsible for managing the worst medical crisis in the country’s history, has been virtually silent in recent days. He has a project manager who still enjoys a limited degree of trust, but the virus evidently hasn’t been terribly impressed by the hero appointed to fight the dragon.

And we still haven’t gotten to the most important point. Judging by the briefings the coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, has given to the media, he took the job in order to forge a new pact between the public and the government. But it’s a bit bizarre for the government to need someone to mediate between it and the public in order to obtain the public’s trust.

Isn’t this the same government whose prime minister claims that most of the public voted for him? And now – how symbolic – he needs a hospital director to heal the gaping rent in the public’s trust and convince people to obey the orders of a government that can’t tell its right hand from its left.

Perhaps Gamzu, as part of his confidence-building job, ought to go out to the thousands of protesters who show up every evening on the doorstep of the royal palace and ask them to go home, since he, not the prime minister, is actually the one in charge. He will take care of things, he will navigate. Believe him and in him, and everything will be okay.

My intention here is not to mock Gamzu or make light of his courage in volunteering to lie down on the barbed-wire fence, but rather to dispel a bit of the dread of new elections, given the vanity fair in which we are all trapped already.

Because any way you look at it, the outcome will be the same. There apparently won’t be a budget by the end of August, and then we’ll have to hold elections in any case. Yet even if one of our two co-prime ministers caves in, we’ll be left with the same failed team and its two captains, one of whom claims that the media have mobilized against him “in North Korean fashion” while the other waits patiently, like a choirboy, for his turn to sing his lame punch line against his rival.

And let’s say a miracle happens, the two prime ministers fulfill the dream of rotating the top job among themselves and continue to stride arm in arm toward the abyss. What kind of future can we expect from a government headed by Benny Gantz when the alternate prime minister will be lying in wait to ambush him and walking around with the political equivalent of a murderer’s dagger in his pocket?

After all, Gantz won’t benefit from the tolerance and courtesy he and his people have shown Bibi. Instead, the political equivalent of the right-wing thugs of La Familia will be waiting to puncture his tires every morning and stick a broken bottle in every plan he seeks to promote.

Israel has degenerated to the point where it no longer has anything to lose. True, after three elections in the space of a year, it doesn’t seem like anything new would emerge from a fourth election. But perhaps the months of living with the coronavirus have forged a few deep cracks capable of shattering even the fortified wall surrounding Netanyahu and even the foundation on which the sane portion of his Likud party rests.

An election now would give the public a chance to settle its interim account with the Israeli version of America’s Tammany Hall bosses, destroy the political mafia and return the country to its owners, the citizens. We deserve another chance.

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