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March 25, 2020 3:52 pm

Israeli PM Netanyahu: ‘We Got Past Pharoah, We’ll Get Past Corona’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A man wearing a face mask walks past shuttered stalls at a market in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 22, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Corinna Kern / File.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday warned that a total shutdown of the country was imminent if the number of Israelis infected with the coronavirus continued to rise.

Citing the Talmudic passage, “Whoever saves one life, it is as if he saved the entire world,” Netanyahu said, “Everyone who infects one life, he infects the entire world.”

Referring to the ongoing rise in new coronavirus cases, Netanyahu said that if this did not change, a “complete closure” of the country would be imposed.

The authorities were preparing for such a scenario, he said, and while he did not specify, this likely referred to plans to confine the entire population to their homes and have the Israeli military deliver all essential goods and services.

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Netanyahu also emphasized the importance of home quarantine, saying, “You must stay at home. Whoever stays at home, stays alive.”

He added that Israel was making enormous efforts to acquire the medical equipment necessary to fight the virus, such as ventilators and test kits.

Acknowledging the toll being taken on the economy, with unemployment skyrocketing as businesses close down, Netanyahu said a financial aid package would be passed immediately that would aid all businesses, large and small, as well as workers and the unemployed.

“We will help you,” he emphasized.

Netanyahu also said that planning was already underway for rebuilding the economy after the crisis passed.

He thanked medical and law enforcement workers of all kinds for their “sacred work,” as well as airlines who have flown Israelis home from abroad.

“The world will look to us to learn how to act in a time of testing,” Netanyahu added.

Addressing Israel’s political impasse, Netanyahu said, “I call again for an emergency government.”

Talks on such a government between Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and its centrist rival Blue and White have thus far remained stalled.

Referring to the upcoming Passover holiday, Netanyahu reminded Israelis that the Jewish people had overcome terrible difficulties in the past, saying, “We got past Pharaoh, and though the battle will be difficult and grueling, we will get past corona.”

Before Netanyahu’s address, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also spoke, hitting many of the same points as Netanyahu while calling even more forcefully for a unity government.

“We are in difficult days for Israeli leadership and society,” Rivlin said.

Directing his remarks at Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Rivlin said, “Find the way to a joint leadership, a responsible leadership, a leadership for an Israeli society that is in a difficult crisis.”

“Combine forces for the people of Israel,” Rivlin urged. “If not now — when?”

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