The coronavirus state of emergency served as an excuse for the heads of two rival blocs to establish a unity government. But apart from guaranteeing the economic and social status of its members, the emergency government has done nothing to get Israel back on track and to prepare adequately for a possible second wave of COVID-19. The return to routine is foundering. There is no organized policy in any area, but the height of confusion was reached in the school system, where parents were forced to use their own epidemiological judgment.
Despite the military manner of Yoav Gallant, under his direction the Education Ministry failed in its efforts to extend the school year and showed its complete lack of planning and preparation. The result: Parents of young children cannot return to work and the job market will continue to limp; in any event, hundreds of thousands of people have nothing to go back to. In addition, the fines being levied by authorities on residents and merchants are high and their real purpose seems to be making up for lost income from taxes and the like.
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The directives are confusing and contradictory, and overall the policy of the “corona cabinet” looks like an improvised patchwork that adds up to caving in to interest groups and a lack of consideration for the needs of the public. “We have finished opening up the economy,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Thursday, before hastening to add that he intended to lower the incidence of disease even if that requires imposing partial closures and perhaps “more aggressive” measures as well. Israelis, however, are more frightened by the economic threat, whose main victims are the self-employed and around one million unemployed people who are in desperate need of government aid in order to return to supporting themselves.
This government, whose inflated dimensions are like a poke in the eye to the public, is blind to the very real distress of the citizens. They don’t have the economic and job security enjoyed by hundreds of cabinet members, Knesset members and their families. For most Israelis, the restrictions on the economy block the economic air supply and threaten to asphyxiate them. Against the backdrop of this economic chaos, the warning issued Saturday by the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center – according to which Israel is entering a second wave and hundreds of people could die of COVID-19 unless immediate measures are taken and the easing of restrictions is reconsidered – only underscores the leadership’s mishandling of the crisis.
Not only did the coronavirus government fail to get the economy back on track, it also failed to do what was needed to prevent a second wave of infections. That’s how things are when the prime minister is busy with incitement against the judicial system, infighting within the coalition and hallucinations about annexation. Netanyahu and Benny Gantz must direct their efforts toward the economic crisis so that the next wave of infections can be fought without destroying the economy.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.