Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a habit of calling televised news conferences at which he demands that the public obey the restrictions imposed by the cabinet to combat the coronavirus. But even as he makes these demands, he and members of his inner circle have repeatedly exempted themselves from those very same regulations.
Even back during the first lockdown, Netanyahu held his Pesach seder together with his son Avner, in violation of the rules. And since then, nothing has changed. Last week, the prime minister returned from Washington, and even though the rules require people returning from the United States to quarantine for 14 days, the members of his delegation arranged to be given a “celebrity discount” in the form of an abbreviated, five-day quarantine. That was after thousands of Israelis had watched the White House ceremony, during which the rules of social distancing and mask-wearing were almost entirely ignored.
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But even under the deluxe conditions devised especially for them, some members of the delegation had trouble obeying the rules. On Monday, we discovered that Netanyahu’s diplomatic adviser, Reuven Azar, had violated his quarantine. The prime minister’s social media adviser, Topaz Luk, was also caught violating his quarantine in order to film protesters in Jerusalem.
In Azar’s case, the authorities basically kept mum, making do with a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office that he “was called to order by his superiors so that there will be no recurrence of such cases.” In other words, while an ordinary person would be fined 5,000 shekels ($1,400) for violating quarantine and would even risk criminal charges, in Azar’s case, they made do with saying “tsk, tsk, tsk.”
Luk’s case is even more serious. Not only did he disobey the quarantine rules, but he was even caught filming protesters in Jerusalem for the purpose of ridiculing them. Later, insult was added to injury when Netanyahu’s Likud party claimed that Luk was only there to take a coronavirus test and was then returning home. But the coronavirus test was given at the Prime Minister’s Office an hour earlier, whereas Luk was photographed near Jerusalem’s Prima Kings Hotel. Members of Netanyahu’s circle like to accuse the left and the media of responsibility for the spread of the coronavirus even as they themselves flout the law and the regulations and tell lies on top of it.
The prime minister even came to their defense Monday, telling the cabinet: “Suddenly you all wake up in the face of one person.” Netanyahu has failed to deliver the most basic thing a good leader ought to provide – a personal example. Because of his behavior and that of his circle, the public’s trust has been mortally wounded. And the ramifications have been immediate and severe. The public is suspicious of the prime minister’s motives in imposing draconian restrictions and has therefore disobeyed the regulations.
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President Reuven Rivlin apologized repeatedly for having held his Passover seder with his daughter, in violation of the rules. Netanyahu not only refused to apologize, but continues to exhort Israelis at a time that he and members of his staff are thumbing their noses at the rules and regulations. This is one more failure in a long list by someone who is unfit to be prime minister.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.