The lockdown that will be imposed on Israelis at 2 P.M. Friday can in many ways be understood as a metaphor for the past year. It was a depressing year, dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the entire world to close down. Billions of people were asked to wear face masks, to maintain social distancing and to avoid physical contact with older loved ones, in order to prevent them from being infected with the virus.
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Israel is the only country in the world to impose a second nationwide lockdown. On Erev Rosh Hashanah, the eve of the Jewish New Year, Israelis are again being placed under harsh restrictions that will disrupt their livelihood, their way of life and their mental health. Responsibility for this lies with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who failed to manage the coronavirus crisis due to a lack of professionalism as well as political constraints connected to his legal situation.
The despondency of the passing year cannot be separated from the fact that the state is led by a man who has been charged with crimes yet refuses to act like a gentleman and to respect the fundamental rules of democracy. Instead of resigning and letting the wheels of justice spin free and true, Netanyahu has declared war on every component of law enforcement in Israel: from the police, the prosecution and the attorney general down to the judges.
By so doing, Netanyahu has fatally wounded the foundation underlying every functioning state. His recklessness had immediate grave repercussions: The Israeli fabric of life, already fragile, has been torn apart by the incitement and polarization that he provoked.
In his desire to flee from justice, Netanyahu has followed in the footsteps of the biblical Samson, toppling the pillars of the temple and crying, “Let my soul die with the Philistines.”
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Now, at the threshold of the new year, we can only hope that, in addition to handling the pandemic more successfully, Netanyahu will come to recognize that the welfare of the state comes before his own personal welfare, and from this it follows that he must lift the choke he placed on its residents and step down in favor of a leader who can heal the painful, bleeding, wounds of the Israeli body politic.
This will not be an admission of defeat on his part, but rather proof of his genuine concern for the welfare and the future of Israel’s citizens.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.