The man who has led the state of Israel for over a decade, for longer than any other prime minister, is the only person who holds in his hands the solution to the virus that currently endangers Israeli society.
Of course, I’m not talking about the Coronavirus. As successful a politician as he is, it is now abundantly clear that his unique talents and abilities in other areas do not necessarily translate into effective management and leadership in the face of a global pandemic. While Israel’s first wave reaction was relatively efficient and even envied (although claims that it was the “best in the world” were suspect), its second wave reaction has, thus far, been disastrous. But in other times, Israeli society would have known how to come together, to display the exemplary solidarity, discipline and resilience it has in countless situations of dire crisis.
Why is it that, in the face of this crisis, Israel seems to be coming apart at the seams, displayed on the streets in protests that are growing and spreading rapidly to all sectors of society, but yet, that are condemned by others as the work of anarchists, leftists, pro-Palestinians, or… Ashkenazim?
Because before we were infected with Corona, we were infected by a much more insidious virus- a deep and comprehensive crisis of trust in our leaders.
What has caused this virus? It’s hard to count the waves.
Our immunity was compromised by the immunity granted, both legally and in popular opinion, to Knesset members under investigation for breaching public trust by abusing their power to further personal interests. We were dealt a further blow when, in the midst of unprecedented economic crisis, our representatives couldn’t find a way to set their egos and need for power aside in order to create an 18 minister government (as required by law!), which would have saved money and increased effectiveness. This government was enabled only by virtue of almost every partner in it betraying fundamental promises and commitments that they had made to their voters. As if that wasn’t enough, while the crisis deepened, with employment at unprecedented levels, with the average Israeli trying to understand how he would pay for groceries, ministers voted to grant Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose estimated net value is 50 million shekel, a 600,000+ shekel tax break. Add the numerous stories of ministers, MKs, and even the president, violating the health rules they were demanding that the public follow, and allowing for family, friends, supporters and celebrities to break them as well, and the stories of lavish, unnecessary expenditures by MKs. Add as well a steady of diet of statements by elected officials, and above all, the prime minister, that the police, and the justice system are biased, corrupt, and untrustworthy. And more. And more.
This is a virus that we are all sick of. So very, very sick of it.
It is no surprise that, given all of the above, so many find themselves questioning every government decision, wondering whether it is based on a serious, topical evaluation of the facts, or perhaps other, ulterior motives. Has Netanyahu’s reluctance to put someone in charge of the Corona response reflect his honest assessment of the public good, or petty political machinations and fears? What about Gantz’s support for a 2 year budget? Or Yifat Shasha Biton’s fighting for gyms to stay open? Decisions to open Yeshivas? Limit demonstrations? Was annexation one big bluff in order to distract us?
And it is no wonder, that with almost no real ability to trust the government’s decisions, people are ignoring directives, and increasingly, going out to protest and give voice to their despair.
Is there a way out? Is there a vaccine, a way to begin to rebuild trust? The country seems to be evenly split between the “Only Bibi” and “Only Not Bibi” camp, with each maintaining a narrative that excludes and delegitimizes the other. But perhaps there is one paradoxical point at which they meet.
The “Only Not Bibi” camp also agrees that “Only Bibi” can solve the current crisis…by resigning. Imagine if Prime Minister Netanyahu called a dramatic press conference, and delivered the following address:
“Citizens of Israel. I have dedicated my life to serving this country. Many of you believe I have done, and am still doing, an extraordinary job. And I think you are the majority. But many of you do not believe in me, and, in fact, believe that I am not acting in the best interests of the State of Israel and its citizens. I do not agree with you. And this is how I will prove you wrong. I believe that right now, at this moment, it is in the best interests of the State of Israel for me to stand aside, and to allow the values of the Likud movement to be lead by someone else. They will still stand for the positions that so many of you voted for. I have proudly served the State of Israel as your prime minister. Sadly, I now believe that I will serve the State of Israel best by stepping down as prime minister.”
This would be a decision that the “Only Not Bibi” camp would find impossible to present as an act of self-interest. If Netanyahu would make such a statement from a place of confidence and power, as his own decision, it would have to be accepted and admired by the “Only Bibi” camp as well. And it would provide an incomparably powerful example, from the top, of a leader who acts for the public good, even at personal sacrifice, an example that could begin rebuilding the people’s trust in their leaders.
Prime Minister Netanyahu. Only you can save us from this vicious virus. Please. Resign.