Netanyahu Is Trying to Blame Democracy and the Public for Israel's Sorry Coronavirus Response

Haaretz Editorial
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a meeting in Jerusalem, June 16, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz Editorial

On Monday at 4:00 A.M. the Knesset passed a law, by a tiny majority of 29 to 24 MKs, that allows the government to bypass it. According to the new law, the government will be able to implement its decisions regarding the fight against the coronavirus before they are discussed by the Knesset, and even before they are subject to debate in Knesset committees (if such discussion goes on too long). The reason, the government claims, is that the process of debating proposed laws in the Knesset delays implementation of governmental decisions.

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This is clearly anti-democratic legislation, which is extremely harmful to the separation of powers and erodes the sovereignty of the Knesset – that is, of the people. This legislation subordinates the Knesset to an omnipotent government.

The willingness of the Knesset to lend a hand to such outright self-deprecation is a shameful sign of the lack of democratic awareness on the part of Israel’s elected representatives. It is not enough that the government controls the Knesset by means of the majority it wields there; on Monday it surrendered the little independence it still has – the ability to oversee the government in a time of emergency.

From this law, which was passed opportunistically overnight, it may be understood that the reason for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s colossal failure in managing the coronavirus crisis lies not, perish the thought, with him and the way he himself managed the crisis, but with the despicable apparatus called democracy, which has supposedly tied his hands and prevented him from carrying out the mission.

Netanyahu has dared to complain about the need for emergency regulations to be enshrined in law: “The legal rules restrict us, it’s simply unbelievable to pass everything through legislation,” he complained. That’s not the way the prime minister in a democracy speaks. That’s the way a dictator speaks, who has lost control of things in his country and dares to blame the country for his failures.

As if the Knesset, and not his own arrogance – which led him too quickly to declare “victory” and a return to normal – is what exposed Israel to a second wave of the coronavirus. As if the Knesset, and not his alienation and distance from the public – which led him to refuse to provide economic support to those hurt by the restrictions – is responsible for Israel’s deterioration into an unprecedented economic crisis. A crisis that has left about a million people unemployed and another million on the way if a full lockdown is required.

Netanyahu defiantly ignores the fact that other democratic countries have managed to return to normal more successfully than Israel. He prefers to blame the Knesset, democracy and even the public for Israel’s sorry situation, instead of taking responsibility.

But it is Netanyahu who has failed, and the time has come for the public, which is paying the price for this failure, to realize this and see to it that Israel is rid of the punishment of being governed by a defendant charged with corruption.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.