With Netanyahu, It's All About Canceling His Trial

Nehemia Shtrasler
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Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court, May 2020.
Nehemia Shtrasler

It’s hard to understand how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s magnificent vaccination campaign ground to a halt so suddenly. How did it happen that people 60 and older got notices Thursday saying their appointments to be vaccinated had been canceled? Is it possible that Bibi was pulling one over on us yet again?

After all, we all remember how he praised himself endlessly for obtaining the Pfizer vaccine for us. He told us about the 13 conversations he had with the company’s CEO, Albert Bourla (but who’s counting?), and about how only this got us the vaccines.

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But what has happened to Bourla now? How did that insolent guy dare halt the shipments? Bibi, for heaven’s sake, get up and phone him. Put him in his place like you did the first time and get us the vaccines. Who is he anyway compared to you?

Given all this, it was embarrassing to hear Yamina party chief Naftali Bennett heaping praise on Bibi for “bringing us the vaccines.” Bennett is Netanyahu’s whipping boy. Every election, Bibi steals his Knesset seats, leaves him last in line during the coalition talks and then beats up on him throughout the term.

Yet Bennett, who considers himself a very moral person, tells us that the criminal charges against Bibi “aren’t the problem” and that he “doesn’t rule anyone out.” In other words, charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust are nothing to this very moral person.

So for Bennett’s information, it wasn’t Bibi who brought us the vaccines, but a task force at the Health Ministry that worked on Pfizer night and day, in cooperation with Pfizer’s representative in Israel, Benita Elkon Baitner. They’re the ones who persuaded the company that we have health maintenance organizations capable of vaccinating millions of people quickly, and that these HMOs also have everyone’s medical history.

The moment we also offered twice the price, Pfizer agreed to give us the initial shipment. It had nothing to do with Bibi, the world’s greatest expert in stealing the credit.

In any case, the big story is how we reached the current embarrassing situation in which only an extreme lockdown and vaccines can save us. It’s essential to understand that a third lockdown isn’t a law of nature. It’s the clear result of Netanyahu’s enormous failure in managing the pandemic.

Judging by the results, this is completely clear – 3,550 dead, 800,000 unemployed, a contracting economy, enormous debt, 75,000 businesses gone bankrupt and hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their entire world and are sunk in deep depression and heavy debts.

Bibi often compares us to European countries, but of course that’s a big lie. We aren’t Germany, with 160 entry and exit points; we’re basically a small island country with a single point of entry, Ben-Gurion Airport.

Therefore, the correct comparison is with similar island countries like Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea, which have long since gotten the pandemic under control. In those countries, the economy is working, commerce is flourishing, the school system is functioning, cultural performances are going on and even the restaurants are open.

In those countries, there’s no need for another lockdown, and also no urgent need for vaccines. After all, they have leaders who have worked for the country’s benefit, not their own.

And to help Bennett understand that this isn’t simply a case of failed management (as he continues to claim so as not to anger Bibi), but rather a deliberate plan to escape justice, I’ll return to an op-ed I published in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition on September 18, “The plan to cancel Bibi’s trial.” I wrote then that he had a clear plan with four stages, and the third was happening right before our eyes – cowardly, ineffective handling of the pandemic due to political considerations, so the virus wouldn’t stop spreading and would let him impose a third lockdown, with the goal of postponing his trial.

Sure enough, two days ago, Netanyahu asked the court to postpone his trial “due to the lockdown.” The court rejected the request, but Bibi hasn’t been orphaned: Avi Himi, chairman of the Israel Bar Association, submitted a request to halt all nonurgent court hearings. The work of the righteous is done for them by others.

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