Israel's Government Is Disconnected From Reality

Haaretz Editorial
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Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi heading for a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, December 2, 2018.Credit: מארק ישראל סלם
Haaretz Editorial

The remarks Friday by Minister without Portfolio or shame Tzachi Hanegbi on a TV talk show truly reveal how detached the government is from the people. “This nonsense that people don’t have what to eat is rubbish,” he said. Only complete disconnection from the public could explain such a baseless statement of indifference to the economic distress and existential fear of hundreds of thousands of people in Israel. Hanegbi apologized, but only a total lack of self-awareness can explain such a “mistake.”

Two months after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted with regard to containing the coronavirus that “Israel’s achievements are a model for many countries,” and that “leaders from countries of the European Union have asked to learn from us,” Israel is dealing with a second wave and stars on a list of countries whose citizens are not allowed to enter the EU. Stricter directives were issued on Friday, and Israel might be on the way to another lockdown.

This is a scandalous failure. Management of the coronavirus crisis was presented as the right balance between health needs and economic needs. As of today, Israel is looking bad on both fronts. Netanyahu’s smugness, in the wake of the achievements in the first wave, has trickled down. The economy reopened in an unchecked manner without logic, and health directives remained recommendations only. At the same time, the hiatus in the spread of the virus was not utilized to establish a proper epidemiological system to locate sick people and carriers so as to break the chain of infection.

Instead of concentrating the fight against the coronavirus in the hands of a single body, improving epidemiological investigations, adding human resources and shortening testing times, Netanyahu’s energies were focused on illusions about annexation and continued incitement against the justice system. Instead of placing the coronavirus and economic crises at the top of the government’s priorities and reducing the number of ministries to save hundreds of millions of shekels, the government only invented additional ministries.

Instead of caring for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed and failing businesses and the economically defenseless self-employed, Netanyahu, the millionaire from Caesarea and Rehavia, dared to ask the state to pay his back taxes. Did Hanegbi or his friends in the detached government say that Netanyahu’s demands were rubbish? Of course not. They flex their muscles only in the face of the weak.

The government was established because of the coronavirus crisis; however, its purpose was not to take care of the public, but rather to provide economic protection for its own members. This is a government of national shamelessness. The dilemma is not between health considerations and economic considerations. They are both essential and closely intertwined. The government must make a radical change in priorities, focus on the coronavirus crisis and allocate resources and funding to deal with it properly.