Opinion

What the Corruption Charges and 'Just Not Bibi' Campaign Couldn't Do, the Virus Will

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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A demonstration by workers of the culture, events industries which were badly affected by the coronavirus in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 2020.
A demonstration by workers of the culture, events industries which were badly affected by the coronavirus in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

Barring a fundamental change in the government’s handling of the economy in the coronavirus crisis, a wave of civil disobedience is about to erupt, the likes of whih has not been seen in Israel.

This will not be the protest of the summer of 2011, with the tents and the holy rage over the inability to buy an apartment in Tel Aviv, or just another hate spectacle against Benjamin Netanyahu. It will be the protest of wounded, trampled people, whose dignity was robbed and whose children face hunger. It will take place against the backdrop of the collapse of the middle class, and mainly over the pathological detachment of the government, which has more ministers and deputy ministers than there are ventilated patients in the hospitals.

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Everyone swooped furiously on Tzachi Hanegbi, the minister in charge of rubbish, following his utterance on a Channel 12 TV talk show, in which he dismissed as rubbish the claim that there are people in Israel who lack food. In fact, Hanegbi is only the confetti flake on the surface. Anyone blabbing about annexation and forming committees to investigate judges while the private sector is collapsing, more than a million people are out of work and at least a million more are under a constant threat of dismissal – is demonstrating his disconnect from reality even more blatantly.

This is not the 2008 financial crisis, and not even the extremely difficult years in the early 2000s when the economy was caught in the vice of the burst high-tech bubble and a bloody intifada. Those debating how dangerous the virus may be are armed with graphs, but the uncertainty won’t clear up in the near future. Humanity is dealing with an unknown blow and is still trying to understand its nature and repercussions. Just when the country needs the most courageous leadership possible, the government is operating at its nadir.

The decision makers haven’t chosen a clear course on dealing with the uncertainty and are dithering and hesitating. They are driving business owners crazy with whimsical regulations that are cut off from reality, and confusing the public with dramatic threats and intimidation. In all this turmoil one equation should be clear and simple. If they deem it necessary to close down businesses because of the danger of the disease or out of fear that the uncertainty could lead to a mountain of victims, then the state must compensate the business owners and workers immediately and fully. This is the time to open up the field rations. This is an emergency. Not doing so would be violating the state’s most basic commitment to the tax paying citizen.

Netanyahu’s haters, who actually worship him unawares because they think he has demonic super powers, believe he’ll use the crisis for his benefit. Perhaps he’ll find a way to put off his trial or maybe even change the government system to bolster his rule, they suspect. There may be more articles predicting Netanyahu’s end than unemployed workers, but in fact, the coronavirus crisis is the most fundamental risk to his long rule.

This crisis, which reveals his detachment even in the eyes of his greatest followers, will manage to do what his crimes of incitement and baiting, the criminal indictments against him and the genuine hostility some of the people feel for him – did not achieve. Like a bone scan, the crisis exposes the simple fact that Israel’s prime minister doesn’t know how a normal person lives, and what fear for one’s livelihood means.

Likud is still in the grip of Bibism, which until recently had also taken root in the right, which never believed Netanyahu but gave him broad support and even backed him in his onslaught on the justice system he hates. But hungry people have other priorities. If Netanyahu does not make a U-turn in his handling of the economic situation, he will pay for it with his seat. This will be the end of him.

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