Opinion: ‘King Bibi’ was exposed in his weakness when under pressure from the ultra-Orthodox politicians opposed to lockdown, proving that to him and his ministers, public health is no more than a political inconvenience
Where is the leader with the authoritative baritone who enticed millions of voters in recent elections?
The man who said 11 years ago he would banish Hamas from the Gaza Strip but did not, purported to foil Iran’s nuclear ambitions and did not, even failed to deliver on his commitment to stop incendiary and explosive devices from being launched from Gaza towards Israeli fields and communities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shas leader Aryeh Deri(Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)
This man, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appeared nightly on television in the early days of the pandemic to boast about his success – and his alone – in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Israel. But now when the virus is spreading out of control, he is looking around for someone to share the blame.
King Bibi, the unbeatable prime minister who assured us he would form a unity government to fight the virus and repair our fragmented society, said he would grant full authority to an expert health professional to lay out a strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19.
But on Sunday night he was exposed in all his weakness, collapsing like a house built on sand, cowed in the face of ultra-Orthodox pressure that threatened his political standing.
One letter from Haredi mayors who warned they would disregard health directives and threatened to withhold their political support managed to upended what had been a carefully laid out plan.
Netanyahu quickly folded when ultra-Orthodox ministers made their demands of him, haunted by images of his political opponent Naftali Bennett, the head of the religious Zionist Yamina party, being warmly received in the Haredi communities.
Lockdowns in red zones including Haredi cities were scrapped despite unanimous agreement that they were vital in slowing the spread of coronavirus.
The strategy put together by Netanyahu-appointed coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu was sidelined, despite being adopted by ministers and earnest declarations that there is no alternative to fight the virus.
Adding insult to injury, Netanyahu’s long-time political partner Aryeh Deri, the head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, tearfully insisted that closures must be imposed on the entire country and not just his constituents – and then said that synagogues (of all things!) would remain open no matter what health restrictions were ultimately imposed.
Is everything about politics? Is there no value any longer in public health or the national interest?
For Netanyahu proved on Sunday that the health of the nation is nothing more than a political inconvenience.