Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s capitulation to the ultra-Orthodox mayors, who threatened not to cooperate with the government if their cities were put under lockdown, and his backtracking on a plan to impose local lockdowns on 10 cities provide additional evidence of his disgraceful failure in managing the coronavirus crisis. It also provides decisive proof of the fact that the country can’t function when the Prime Minister’s Office is occupied by a criminal defendant. With his reckless irresponsibility, Netanyahu is throwing Israel into anarchy.
Netanyahu, his family and his loyalists disparage the people protesting against his government and term them anarchists. But the real anarchists are Netanyahu’s natural partners in this awful government. Ultra-Orthodox politicians are exploiting Netanyahu’s dependence on their support to extort him. Like Netanyahu, they too know that he depends on their support for his political survival, and also for his future attempts to escape justice.
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The threat to refuse to comply with the government’s decisions should it dare to approve the professional, to-the-point recommendations made by the coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, is a rebellion in every respect. Netanyahu’s capitulation to this threat, at the expense of all Israelis, shows not just that he’s easily extorted, but that the entire country is now his hostage. The results of this crisis of faith could be seen on Monday, when the head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, MK Avigdor Lieberman, urged the public to ignore government orders aimed at curbing the spread of the virus in light of its failure to manage the crisis.
In response to the collapse of trust in the government, Netanyahu sent a letter to the heads of the opposition parties – Yair Lapid, Ayman Odeh, Lieberman and Naftali Bennett – titled “The damage you’re doing to Israel’s battle against the coronavirus and your encouragement of anarchy.” In an attempt to blame everyone except himself and his ultra-Orthodox captors, he accused the opposition of making “irresponsible statements that weaken, divide and undermine public unity in the battle against the coronavirus.”
But the person who’s dividing and undermining public unity is Netanyahu himself, who, to serve the needs of his own political survival and the narrow interests of his ultra-Orthodox partners, is leading Israel to a humiliating systemic collapse. The writing was on every possible wall. Demands that Netanyahu leave politics until his legal situation was clarified have been voiced ever since the investigations against him began and continued through the release of a draft indictment, the filing of charges in court and the start of his trial. Netanyahu himself gave us a perfect explanation of this self-evident demand when he made it of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “There’s a fear ... that he’ll make decisions on the basis of his personal interest in his own political survival rather than on the basis of the national interest.” At this crazy time, the entire country has seen that fear come true. At the height of a pandemic, Israel is on the brink of anarchy. Netanyahu must go.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.