The images from the mass funeral Sunday in Jerusalem are a mark of disgrace on the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is how a country looks when its prime minister and public security minister have given up on enforcing the law for electoral reasons. Millions have been forced to hole up in their homes for months, children have been sentenced to (not) learning remotely.
There are about a million unemployed people and tens of thousands of closed businesses. Most of them are not victims of the coronavirus pandemic or of the measures needed to contain it, but of Netanyahu’s weakness, as displayed when he refused to impose differential lockdowns and didn’t enforce the coronavirus regulations equitably.
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Thanks to his political weakness in the face of his ultra-Orthodox partners, without whom he has no government, what Netanyahu “achieved” for the general public was the worst of all possible worlds: Instead of differential lockdowns focused on “red” (mostly Haredi) cities, we got differential enforcement, which turns a blind eye to violations by his political protegés. So it is deemed for an electorate whose votes Netanyahu wants.
The thousands who attended Sunday’s funeral of the dean of the Brisk Yeshiva, Rabbi Meshulam Dovid Soloveitchik, in the midst of a general lockdown did so because they could. Moreover, those yeshiva heads and Haredi leaders who called on the Haredi public to attend the funeral did so without fearing the law or the police, because they know that Netanyahu and the minister in charge of the police, Amir Ohana, are in their pockets.
The police are also cooperating with this madness. “Before the funeral … the police conducted a prior dialogue … attendance was reduced,” the police said, as the country remains locked down and numerous Israelis are stranded abroad. It is inconceivable that there is a group that merits VIP treatment from the police.
But the blame for the mass contempt for the law must be assigned to Netanyahu and Ohana. If the relationship between Netanyahu and the Haredi representatives in the cabinet were a healthy one and not one of “protection,” the Haredi leadership would not be acting as if it is above the law. When this leadership acts with Netanyahu’s vague or explicit backing, and the police, in the spirit of commander Ohana, turn a blind eye to Haredi violations for months, it’s no wonder that such a mass event could take place in the midst of a lockdown. It’s hard to demand that the police disperse such a huge crowd with force, which could lead to a disaster.
Now suddenly everyone’s remembering to cry out. Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish wrote, “Then people are surprised why the lockdown doesn’t reduce the incidence of infection,” and coalition chairman Miki Zohar wrote, “The images from the mass funeral in Jerusalem are saddening,” as he demanded enforcement. You would think they were anti-Netanyahu demonstrators, and not senior members of government.
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Netanyahu and his government are bankrupt. Let’s hope the public understands this, and makes them pay at the polls.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.