Friday, August 19th | 22 Av 5782

September 16, 2020 4:50 am

It’s Time for Israel’s Leaders to Take Responsibility

avatar by Isi Leibler


Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Israel, June 7, 2020. Photo: Menahem Kahana / Pool via Reuters.

With Rosh Hashanah approaching, it is surely time for our leaders to take stock of themselves and recognize the terrible damage incurred on the nation by their indefensible, self-promoting, corrupt, and anti-democratic behavior.

Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus, Israel was in the strongest position since its creation, and the prime minister’s standing was at an all-time high. The Trump administration proved to be more supportive of Israel than any previous American government, and openly allied itself with Israel, condemned the Palestinians for their intransigency, and committed itself to denying Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear power. Our economy, military, and social standing in the world had never been so good, and we had developed good reciprocal relations with countries as disparate as Russia and India.

But today, despite the recent historic breakthrough with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, we face a series of looming confrontations that may endanger our long-term security.

Our prime minister, despite his outstanding achievements, is indisputably destroying his legacy by promoting his personal political and legal interests to the point of endangering the nation.

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Amid the worsening medical crisis where the numbers of coronavirus infected are soaring, Netanyahu’s actions seem to be solely motivated towards retaining control even if it involves undermining his coalition and outraging most of his constituents. The collapse of government also reflects the erosion of the role of the cabinet — a key feature of a democratic government — with Netanyahu treating his coalition partners with outright contempt.

Netanyahu must now apply himself urgently to the escalating danger of the coronavirus crisis, in which Israel catapulted from being a model of success to becoming the country with the highest per capita rate of infection in the world.

There has been a total absence of leadership or direction in tackling the coronavirus. Until now, no serious effort has been made to curb the rate of infection within the Haredi and the Arab sectors. Netanyahu’s pathetic last-minute surrenders to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox have outraged the nation and escalated societal tensions and hatred.

Benny Gantz, who only agreed to join Netanyahu in the emergency government to deal with the issue, has performed no better. Together with members of his Blue and White Party, his primary focus has been to reject or undermine policies advanced by Netanyahu.

If Netanyahu is unable to now provide leadership and enable the corona cabinet to act responsibly with clear direction and unity to curb the spread of the coronavirus and deal with the economic disruption, he is endangering the nation and must step down.

There are other critical issues facing us at the international level — especially the pending US elections. Should Joe Biden be elected, our good fortune in having the most supportive American administration could be dramatically reversed. The problem is not Biden himself, but what is taking place in the lower ranks of the Democratic Party. The trends in the party include extending the “big tent” to include outright antisemites like Linda Sarsour and others who are open fans of the abhorrent Louis Farrakhan.

Some of Israel’s most loyal Democratic supporters have been defeated in primaries by radicals. Although most Americans still support Israel, the Democratic Party is now divided, with the anti-Israeli factions gaining influence because of the passivity of many of Israel’s traditional supporters. Even those Democrats “supporting” Israel oppose extending sovereignty in the West Bank. Biden has also pledged to reverse the Trump policies and reinstate the disastrous 2015 deal with Iran.

But even in the best case scenario, Biden will revert to Obama’s “even-handed” policy, where Israel and Palestinian terrorists are regarded as morally equivalent.

Against this backdrop, it is disgraceful that centrist Israeli leaders, who basically share the same security objectives, are unwilling to submerge their personal interests and display unity.

On Rosh Hashanah, we should pray that the Almighty makes our selfish leaders realize that they must change their behavior and set aside their personal political interests and unite to belatedly deal professionally with the coronavirus. Failing to do that, history will not forgive them.

A united centrist government with a functioning cabinet, with or without Netanyahu, would also have a dramatic positive impact on our relations with whatever American administration is elected. It may even influence some American Jewish leaders to wake up and renew support for the Jewish state — which, whether they like it or not, remains the key factor in their identity and political influence.

Isi Leibler is an Israeli columnist. He may be contacted at [email protected] A version of this article was originally published by Israel Hayom and the Jerusalem Post.

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