(April 16, 2020 / JNS) The entire Israeli public, including residents of Bnei Brak, deserves praise. It grasped the challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic very quickly, even though the pundits, experts (some of them from the medical world) and a bevy of thought leaders told it just a few weeks ago the virus was merely a mild flu—perhaps even an Israeli invention. More precisely, an invention concocted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assist his political survival.
And because the Israeli public, barring a few exceptions, is being responsible, then the truth must now be said as the discussion transitions—as is the case in many other countries—to an “exit strategy.” The intention, of course, is ending the lockdown and shelter-in-place directives, not the crisis in general, which perhaps has only just begun. The International Monetary Fund is evoking 1929 to give us an idea of the situation we can expect to encounter. Others, meanwhile, are talking about a Marshall Plan for the day after the crisis, with China at the fore instead of the United States … but don’t be alarmed: it will be bearable, though difficult.
We’re still not there yet. We are still without a cure, without a vaccine, even without a sufficient amount of testing kits (which is important). On the other hand, it’s also OK to take a deep breath: They are talking about the virus returning in November, and it can also come back milder, less irritable.
And generally speaking, when looking at the numbers in Israel compared to the rest of the world, we see that the system here is very far from collapse, despite sensationalist claims. In specific cases, mistakes were certainly made, and we will have to learn their lessons on the fly, but from here to the findings of the next coronavirus committee and the grades it dispenses (politically unbiased, we trust) to those who saved lives in real-time—there’s still a long way to go. Israel deserves very high marks for its handling of the crisis so far, even if caution remains necessary, but this is an ongoing, global crisis, unprecedented in scope, for which no screenwriter could have prepared us.
The road is still long, and grades are given at the end.
The challenge of the coronavirus has torn the masks off of some and revealed others as responsible adults. “[Netanyahu] lost the election, then he shut down the Knesset, ordered citizens to stay in their homes and now issues any emergency decree he wishes. This is what you call a dictatorship,” tweeted professor Yuval Noah Harari on March 19.
A tweet such as this, in our media sphere, immediately earns you considerable air time and a nice photo alongside some black flag. Maybe it’s best we spare ourselves a name for this particular tweet. After all, Harari is trying to sell books. On the other hand, author David Grossman and journalist Gideon Levy, whose left-wing views are well established, realized the magnitude of the hour, the importance of national responsibility and the formation of a unity government. Long live the difference between Grossman and Harari.
The corona crisis will linger long into the future, but ultimately, it will be consigned to history. The Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968 has now been largely forgotten, despite killing an estimated 1 million people. Therefore, we must already begin thinking about the day after.
We want a government; we certainly don’t want an election (it’s unbelievable that people went out and voted in the Wisconsin primary)—but not at all costs. We will not concede sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and settlements in Judea and Samaria, nor will we accept a disruption of the balance of power between the branches of government in favor of the judiciary. The right is fighting this battle for Blue and White leader Benny Gantz as well.
Boaz Bismuth is editor in chief of Israel Hayom.
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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