Irrespective of one’s political orientation, most people would agree that Israel is facing immense domestic challenges at this time, the like of which our country has never known since its establishment.
According to figures just published, whereas Israel was envied by the rest of the world for the manner in which it had handled the Corona crisis, our country now ranks sixth in the world for the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases relative to the size of her population.
Prime Minister Netanyahu admitted a couple of weeks ago that he had opened up the economy too quickly and took responsibility for his failure to handle the crisis.
As if that were not bad enough, the country is now witnessing a level of civil unrest unknown since the days of the Israeli Black Panthers in the 1970’s, when Mizrahi Jews gathered in mass demonstrations against racial discrimination.
The historian Oz Frankel described how “a police water cannon sprayed rioters with jets of water dyed green, only increasing the panic on the street. More than 100 people were arrested, many just onlookers, with several instances of police brutality recorded. Arrests continued into the following day”.
The situation then seems remarkably similar to what is happening now, when thousands of protesters gather each day outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.
However, this is far more serious. As I write, it is reported that an armored vehicle has taken up position close to his home as large numbers of protesters continue to call for Netanyahu’s resignation as he faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Amidst all of this turmoil one can only ask: Where is our President? We have hardly heard a word from him for months apart from his call last week to our political leaders to resolve their disagreements and avoid the need to return to the polls.
It is at challenging times such as these that our country desperately needs a unifying force to steer the ship through troubled waters. Police water cannons and military armored vehicles are not the way for a democracy to confront challenges to its authority.
When the late Shimon Peres held office, the budget of the presidency, including his salary, amounted to no less than 58 million shekels ($17 million) per annum. That is a lot of money. It is now time for our President to justify that expenditure.