Despite the accolades showered on Israel for our approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent “successes,” the Israeli COVID response is more that of a disapproving parent to their toddler than that of a mature democracy who places trust and responsibility in its citizens. And as children observe their subpar, albeit all-too-human, parents, so too the façade of a well-intentioned government begins to crack, with hypocrisy shining through.
To anyone lauding the Israeli policy approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, the list below contains 14 influential Israeli politicians who violated the coronavirus restrictions they themselves advocated for and enforced. In this list appear the Prime Minister, the President, the head of the Army, Shin Bet (Security Services), the Health Minister and 2 of the policy-makers in the coronavirus cabinet who drafted the regulations they then violated. The violations center around quarantine and social distancing violations, including some confirmed exposure to active COVID patients.
To the politicians on this list of hypocrites, I have one question: the Israeli population is responsible enough to vote you into power but not responsible enough to make decisions about how they run their communities, businesses and private lives?
By highlighting these individuals I have no wish to cancel their public persona or their ability to express themselves. Believing that “sunlight is the best disinfectant” and truth as the highest good, I can only strive to make the most convincing case, encourage others to vote and structure their view of government accordingly.
Policy decisions led unemployment to spike to 25% early in the pandemic. 400,000 Israelis had their privacy violated and were mistakenly placed into quarantine (read: “wrongfully imprisoned”). 72 million NIS in fines were handed out for violations as of January 2021. Mental health services, including suicide prevention, saw worrying trends, many of which are tied to economic concerns directly impacted by government policies. Only 24% of Israelis assess the government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic as good or better. Based on how the past 18 months have gone, it’s no wonder. And rather than focusing on whether the top epidemiological and public health experts were setting the policies with citizens’ rights kept in mind, ministerial bickering and identity politics tarred the discussions of the coronavirus cabinet’s makeup.
To those of us living in Israel during the pandemic, the ineptitude of policy making and enforcement has made a mess of day to day living:
- Masks required outdoors but not when eating indoors in restaurants, despite the apparent safety of the former and the potential danger of the latter
- A “gracious” 100 meter zone around our homes in which to “get some fresh air”
- Selective enforcement of regulations among different demographics
And you may say “Well, these policies were made with the best information available at the time.” And while this point is true, it sidesteps the larger question of how Israeli politicians and government treat its citizens and conceptualizes freedom. “We know best,” they say, “and if you step out of line, face the consequences. Comply, even if our policy making is to the detriment of your children’s education, your income, your ability to vote or any other basic freedom we deem fit to suspend at our whim.”
While I stand firm in my convictions in this post, I also recognize the good that this country has enabled in this trying time. I consider myself unbelievably blessed and lucky to be fully vaccinated, particularly as early as we were able to get the vaccine. I was also extremely fortunate to work as part of a company that weathered the storm of the past year and a half. And by auspicious timing, my wife and I were able to get married, albeit with muted celebration and a limited number of family and friends. Each of these has earned many moments of profound gratitude.
And yet….Israel’s morbidity rate is the middle of the pack and many countries with similar draconian lockdowns have higher death rates than countries who included personal freedom in the factors to consider during this pandemic. The hypocrisy of Israel’s leaders and policy makers should leave a stain on the faith Israeli’s have on the status quo of how their government treats them. Emerging from COVID-19, I hope more Israelis view the government as an overbearing parent and the return to normal life should be a push to limit government overreach.
Coronavirus Restriction Violations Among Politicians in Public Office & Their Advisors
- Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu (and his wife)
- President Reuven Rivlin
- IDF Chief Kohavi
- Nadav Argaman (Director of the Shin Bet), oversaw government monitoring cell phones of citizens with coronavirus
- Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (UTJ)
- Yesh Atid’s Mickey Levy (who was on the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee at the time and is the current Knesset Speaker)
- Likud’s Gila Gamliel (Environmental Protection Minister at the time)
- Likud’s Nir Barkat
- Defense Minister Benny Gantz
- Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi
- Absorption Minister Yoav Galant
- Yisrael Beytenu’s Avigdor Liberman
- Reuven Azar (Foreign Affairs Advisor to Netanyahu)
- Topaz Luk (Social Media Advisor to Netanyahu)