Benjamin Netanyahu, the Leader Who Can't Take Responsibility

Haaretz Editorial
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People attend a pro-democracy demonstration April 4, 2020.
People attend a pro-democracy demonstration April 4, 2020.Credit: Tomer Applebaum
Haaretz Editorial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the person responsible for the coronavirus failure. From the moment he learned of the outbreak of the pandemic, Netanyahu took the reins and managed the crisis in a centralized manner without delegating authority or involving others in decision-making, without transparency, behind the back of the Knesset and the cabinet, while lauding his own resourcefulness and achievements every evening on live TV. Only thanks to him did we manage “unlike in the Holocaust, to recognize the danger in time,” he boasted. Leaders from all over the world are calling him to learn how to quash the virus, he bragged.

LISTEN: Protests, pandemics and Netanyahu's day of reckoningCredit: Haaretz

When it became apparent that a second wave has erupted, that the infection rate is surging, that the return to normalcy flopped and restrictions that were lifted have to be reimposed, that the odds of another full lockdown are increasing daily and that Israel has fallen into an unprecedented economic crisis, Netanyahu stopped seeing himself as the sole person responsible for managing the coronavirus.

Now everyone but him is to blame: the public, which didn’t heed instructions; Benny Gantz and Kahol Lavan “which, for political reasons, is thwarting the necessary measures to stop the disease and save lives”; Coronavirus Committee chairwoman MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, whose committee approved the opening of gyms and swimming pools, going against the cabinet’s position.

Everyone is responsible for the failure apart from Netanyahu – whether it’s former Health Ministry director general Moshe Bar Siman Tov (who was suddenly brought back as a special adviser) or Prof. Siegal Sadetzki, the Health Ministry’s chief public health officer who resigned two weeks ago.

What do you want from him? He’s just the prime minister.

While other nations used the lockdown time to prepare their health systems and strengthen their apparatus for interrupting the chains of infection, Netanyahu was in a hurry to move on, to his dreams of annexation and to his political and legal struggles. His failed management has cost billions of shekels. More importantly, it has brought economic hardship, often economic ruin, upon hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

It would be appropriate for the man who told the public that we have him alone to thank for Israel’s success in flattening the curve during the first wave, and for averting a catastrophe like the situation in Italy and the United States, to take the same degree of responsibility for the current failure and resign. But the concept of “taking responsibility” is nowhere to be found in Netanyahu’s lexicon, and so it is the public that is trying to show him the door.

The voices of protest that Netanyahu hears from the window of his residence on Balfour Street cannot be silenced, not even by police. They are the voices of a public that is suffocating and can’t breathe anymore.

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