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The Pandemic in The Light of Current Israeli Politics

It seems that, all things considered, Prime Minister Netanyahu is having a good corona crisis or, at least, is using it to his advantage.

To start with, the courts have been closed, which means that his trial that should have started last week has now been postponed for at least a couple of months and probably longer. His minister of justice is a most faithful servant who takes every opportunity to run his master’s errands.

No doubt other ministers do it also, if for no other reason than to stay in office. Should a unity government come about – which is reasonable and desirable at this time yet by no means certain – several of them will have to go back to the backbenchers. Their retirement will greatly benefit the country. Thus, for example, the present defence minister seems more interested to protect the settlements than the country.

As I wrote some time ago, the minister of transport wants Israel to return to the days of King David, which presumably means transportation by asses and camels rather than trains, cars and buses. Though the corona crisis has eased traffic dramatically and greatly reduced pollution, the situation is far from ideal. When the crisis is over, we’ll still want to remain in the 21st century.

The minister of education in Mr. Netanyahu’s current now one-year-old transition government seems to be an embarrassment. He was given the post because he’s the leader of one of the parties in Netanyahu’s coalition, but his competence is questionable. He reminds me of the story about Stalin who is said to have chosen members of his cabinet not according to competence but for reasons of expediency. That’s why a party worker became his minister of education. As was the custom in those days, Moscow University would award an honorary doctorate to the minister of education. This incumbent was very proud of the honor and wanted it mentioned after his signature. The trouble was that he was illiterate and, as was customary at the time, would sign with three large crosses. How then was he to put PHD after his name? Answer: he added two small crosses after the three large ones.

Even the minister of health, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi party, may be little more than a front, not a political leader. Though he is present each time the prime minister makes a statement about the pandemic – sometimes even wearing his streimel – it’s not obvious that he has something to say. The director-general of the ministry is very articulate, but it’s not clear if he says all that doctors would want him to say.

A unity government could change all that, but his opposition isn’t sure that Netanyahu wants a true partnership rather than a convenient front. Negotiations are said to be in progress creating, we’re told, unwholesome divisions within the Blue and White conglomerate which consists of three separate parties that don’t always see eye-to-eye. I’ve read opinion pieces suggesting that, ironically, a unity government may be the end of Blue and White.

Like the rest of the world, Israel is suffering from the pandemic. But in addition, it’s also suffering from a lack of mature political leadership that should command the support of most citizens.

Prayers and personal relationships keep us going as does hope for better times soon.

Jerusalem 23.3.20                                                                                                                            Dow Marmur

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