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The Netanyahu failure: A lockdown instead of a plan

With inaction and political bickering and with no clear exit strategy, the government has abandoned its public

Israel is entering an avoidable lockdown. The cause of this lockdown isn’t COVID-19, it’s the failed, politicized, negligent and hysterical management of the crisis by this government and by the Prime Minister.

For seven months they’ve done nothing. They didn’t shore up the healthcare system. They didn’t enlist medical students. They didn’t open field hospitals. They didn’t strengthen the testing labs. They didn’t hire people to carry out epidemiological testing. They did nothing then, and they have done nothing now.

The citizens of Israel don’t understand what the plan is, and that’s because there is no plan. The government has not presented any idea other than closing down the country; they don’t have a work plan beyond locking people in their homes.

When the history of this period is written it will be called the Netanyahu failure. This could have been managed differently. It should have been managed differently. There is no shortage of examples. From Taiwan to Finland; from New Zealand to Estonia; in every place where a serious government enlisted professionals, worked in an organized manner, kept the public informed and received the trust of the public, the situation looks different from here in Israel.

It simply isn’t true that the second wave has hit the whole world and was inevitable. It’s another one of the lies that has led this government to lose the public’s trust. The second wave is only hitting those who didn’t prepare for it, who live in countries where the government didn’t prepare. Look at the graphs. This isn’t a setback, it’s a failure. It’s the result of a government that has no idea what it’s doing, a government that has lost the trust of the public.

Faced with the current situation, we must act. The numbers can’t be ignored. We need to protect our health but we have to act smart, act right and mostly act in accordance with the needs of the economy and healthcare system. Not according to politics, not according to the demands of coalition partners.

But the professionals are being ignored because of politics. They opposed a complete lockdown. Prof. Ronni Gamzu was against a complete lockdown. Prof. Itamar Grotto was against it. The Finance Ministry was against it. They were all ignored. We’re going into this lockdown without any sort of plan, without setting clear goals.

The operation being set up by the IDF to cut the chain of infection will not be ready until January. Nobody can explain why this is taking so long but if it will only be ready in January, why close the country now?

The top economist in the Finance Ministry estimated yesterday that the lockdown’s damage to the economy will be 35 billion shekels. Businesses are collapsing, tens of thousands of people have become unemployed in the last three days alone. And no one understands what the goal is and how long it is supposed to take.

We can’t trust the government but there is another body in this country we can trust, the Israeli public. It’s up to us. Up to our ability to work together and take personal responsibility, to be responsible for one another.

I join the call of Rabbi Yosef: Take care of your families, pray in the open air with masks. Saving lives comes above all else. And we will follow the rules on protests even if they’re being handed down for dubious reasons. We’ll protest on the bridges near our homes, we will protest in capsules of 20 people.

We’ll wear masks, we’ll maintain distance, we’ll look after our parents.

We will pray responsibly and we will protest responsibly. We will stick to the rules. We won’t let Netanyahu turn this into a war between religious and secular. We are united in the fight against this virus and the fight to save the economy.

This government is blind to the fear that Israelis feel today, the fear for our parents and grandparents. The fear for our health. None of us wants to get sick with corona. The fear for our livelihood, that we won’t be able to pay for childcare or gas for the car. The feeling that we’re alone and faced with a government that doesn’t see us, hear us or understand us.

We are not alone

But we’re not alone. We have one another. We have the ability and the wisdom and the strength to get out of this together. All those people who a year ago argued with us about politics are our brothers and sisters, our extended family. There is only one way to handle this crisis – together.

Just days before Yom Kippur, we really are in a time of reckoning. Not just because of the pandemic but also because of the arguments and hate and incitement that Netanyahu is spreading. Let’s agree not to surrender to it and to remember that we’re here together in good times and bad. Let’s look after ourselves and one another.

If we are heading into a lockdown then there are six things that need to be done. Here is the plan that the government should have presented but hasn’t:

  1. A coherent exit strategy with clear parameters. What is the measure of success? What are we trying to achieve? What drop in infection rates will lead to reopening schools, to reopening businesses, to the end of the lockdown? Give us a consistent number, not one that changes every day.
  2. An immediate compensation framework that will go into effect as the lockdown begins to provide a safety net with unemployment benefits for the self-employed, and cancellation of the unpaid leave framework, which has failed, and a shift to the German model, which focuses on job support rather than unemployment benefits.
  3. The creation of a proper epidemiological tracing system to cut the chain of infections, impose local closures and enforcement alongside an emergency medical system able to deal with the rising number of cases nationwide.
  4. The appointment of a professional spokesperson for the crisis. No more political press conferences, just clear information and instructions delivered to the Israeli public every day.
  5. Leadership by example from all the members of the government. Any minister who breaks the terms of the lockdown has to resign immediately. That includes the Prime Minister. We have to rebuild public trust.
  6. A framework to hand over authority and resources to mayors and heads of local authorities to manage their own cities alongside the Home Front Command.

That is the minimum needed to get out of the lockdown. It creates order in place of the chaos that this government has led us to. We call on the government to adopt this plan now.

About the Author
Yair Lapid is the Founder and Chairperson of Yesh Atid, Israel's centrist party, and the leader of the opposition
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