The government is to discuss Sunday the coronavirus cabinet’s decision to impose a full lockdown for two weeks beginning Friday, the eve of Rosh Hashanah. In keeping with its bankrupt policies, the government also failed to impose differential lockdowns. And for this, the entire public has to pay the price.
According to economic assessments, another lockdown will mean the loss of 14–18 billion shekels ($4.04–5.2 billion) in the GDP and 400,000–800,000 more workers will be furloughed. This is a fatal blow to the economy and to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Employers’ organizations and heads of local government are calling on the government not to impose another full lockdown on the economy.
A lockdown is an extreme solution − one which we should not have had to face. The decision on a lockdown is the result of a chain of abject failures in the government’s management of the coronavirus crisis by the prime minister, who is too busy dealing with the “Netanyahu crisis.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government failed to use the first lockdown to prepare for the second wave, and the series of steps they took were always too little too late, leading Israel downhill to a state of helplessness.
The lack of public faith has trickled down so far that people will not cooperate with the draconian step of a lockdown. The crisis of confidence was created due to the disregard the country’s leaders showed for the restrictions they themselves had imposed on Israel’s citizens. But it deepened further in light of the frantic and utterly illogical way decisions were made, and the fact that decisions were canceled in response to opposition to them by the ultra-Orthodox community – in a way that showed that they were political rather than professional.
The lack of faith also stems from the incongruence between the sense of urgency conveyed to the public and the disdain for the danger of the coronavirus, which manifests itself in the fact that Netanyahu is up to his neck in other matters that are “more urgent.” These include not only his obsessive efforts to cancel his trial and to crush the law enforcement system, but also decisions like the one about his flight to the signing ceremony with the United Arab Emirates, which could have been held without him.
A government entirely and exclusively immersed in the fight against COVID-19, cooperating fully, transparently and pertinently, could have prevented the need for a second lockdown. What’s more, as of now, it seems that Israel is heading for a second lockdown without knowing how it will emerge from it. The Israeli public is not getting a clear picture about the exit plan from the lockdown, and that raises concerns that although this step will have dramatic economic implications, it does not ensure a long-term solution.
The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the fact that Israel is in the midst of a severe crisis, at the center of which is a prime minister and government ministers who have lost their legitimacy among large segments of the public.
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The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.