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Israel's Coalition of Contagion

Haaretz Editorial
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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu visits a Clalit HMO clinic in Nazareth, January 13, 2021.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu visits a Clalit HMO clinic in Nazareth, January 13, 2021.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Haaretz Editorial

The children enrolled in public schools stayed home again yesterday and studied via Zoom, due to the lockdown Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has imposed. But the education system’s physical closure did not apply to the ultra-Orthodox communities’ schools. Those remain open as usual - in violation of lockdown regulations, but not in violation of their leaders’ instructions.

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The fact that the number of ultra-Orthodox students who contracted coronavirus broke a record this past month is of no concern to them. Every day some 500 ultra-Orthodox students test positive for coronavirus in Jerusalem. Out of some 4,300 students who are confirmed COVID-19 carriers, 84 percent – about 3,600 – go to ultra-Orthodox schools. But as far as the Satmar, Toldot Aharon, Toldot Avrahm Yitzhak, Vizhnitze and Belz hasidic dynasties and the Jerusalem Lithuanian faction are concerned – the state’s instructions are mere recommendations. And it has transpired again and again that these recommendations were rejected.

From the fundamentalists’ point of view, they were rejected for good reason.

They understand full well that the person tasked with making sure the instructions are enforced, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, is also the chief bootlicker of the man who must maintain his current and future coalition – Netanyahu.

The fundamentalists may not study core curriculum, but they know how to add one plus one and the result is that they simply don’t give a damn about the lockdown regulations.

Indeed, the police haven’t enforced the regulations in recent days, haven’t fined the ultra-Orthodox schools and haven’t closed them down.

The police chiefs even accused the local governments and ultra-Orthodox community leaders of not cooperating and in some cases of even encouraging lockdown violations. But the police were wrong. The culprits are neither local government nor the ultra-Orthodox leaders, but the police boss, Ohana, and the boss’s boss, Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has been waging an election campaign for the past two years. Part of the campaign consists of openly handing out perks to the most important component of the coalitions he has set up and may set up – the ultra-Orthodox parties.

For him, anyone who ensures his election is entitled to extenuations and mitigations, and anyone who doesn’t – isn’t. In the choice between continued mass contagion and his coalition’s integrity, Israel’s prime minister has no internal conflict.

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

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