Opinion |

While Coronavirus Cabinet Rules Israel, What Are the Other Ministers Doing?

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Netanayhu at a cabinet meeting during the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, May 31, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The organization called the “coronavirus cabinet” is terrorizing the inhabitants of Israel. If it weren’t real, it could serve as the title of a book by Umberto Eco or Dan Brown. Its name is reminiscent of frightening institutions such as the “Politburo,” “the “Kremlin,” the “Elders of Zion,” the “Revolutionary Council,” the “Deep State,” and other mysterious and violent arms of government. The very mention of their name causes everyone to tremble.

This is the organization that is running the country at present. Once it numbered 16 men, and now it has only 12 members, including two women, one of whom is Transportation Minister Miri Regev. They are the ones dictating to us how much air to breathe, how far we can go on our daily walk, how many children will assemble in one class and get to experience a pressure chamber, how many mothers and fathers will go out to work, who is allowed to use our personal information, and how much money we will have left at the end of the month after paying the fines.

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The authority to decide was granted to this council of sages by the power of emergency regulations, and they are operating according to their degree of political compatibility, between the creaky cogwheels that propel the government. They explain to the public that the decisions are “businesslike,” “professional” and “balanced,” because they are based on the opinion of experts, doctors, project managers and economists, whose life’s mission is to save lives and to extricate the economy from a crisis. We have no choice but to believe them, the way people believe the threats of shamans or collectors of protection money.

The coronavirus is the excuse for the existence of this cabinet. But what are the other 20 ministers doing, those with offices, luxury cars and huge budgets? For example, the Ministry for Regional Cooperation. In which region exactly is it cooperating? The Red­­-Dead Canal (the plan to quarry a canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea) is so frozen it could serve as a skating rink on sand, relations with Jordan are paralyzed, and the peace with the Emirates was brought about by U.S. President Donald Trump, as was the peace with Bahrain and Sudan. Business with these countries will be transacted by companies and corporations, not the minister in charge.

The Ministry of Aliyah and Integration processed only about 13,000 new immigrants this year. Most of its budget goes to salaries, overtime pay, car expense deductions, administration and a little for stipends and assistance to immigrants’ businesses. The Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee, headed by Arye Dery, has scattered money mainly on religious institutions, and out of a budget of about 10 billion shekels ($3 billon) earmarked for the development of the Arab sector in the years 2016 to 2020, only about 3.5 billion was actually used.

Incidentally, a perusal of the implementation of the plans that were approved reveals that in several of the ministries only 40 percent to 70 percent of the budget was used, with the surplus rolling around like the balls in the Mifal Hapayis lottery machine.

The State Comptroller’s Office interim report on the period of the coronavirus reveals many failures in the healthcare system, the Shin Bet security service, the Education Ministry and by almost everyone who holds the aristocratic title “member of the coronavirus cabinet.” It does not contain any direct accusations against those responsible, God forbid, nor any criminal findings – but it does include innumerable recommendations, of the kind that can be read in the incisive articles published in the media.

All that’s left is to believe that the ministries for Diaspora Affairs, Intelligence, Strategic Affairs, Social Equality and Community Empowerment and Advancement are doing their work well. Although these ministries are so secret that their ministers will probably receive the Israel Prize at clandestine ceremonies, but we believe them and will not consent to deduct a single shekel from their budgets.

This is a government composed of fake spare parts, and there’s no choice but to send it to the scrap heap. Every additional day that it travels on the highway it endangers the lives of Israel’s citizens. Anyone who is afraid of an election is similar to someone who is attached to his wreck of a car as though it were a collectors’ item, or in the hope of receiving the insurance money.

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