With Rosh Hashana 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 six months ago, 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 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 Bahrein, 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.
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 partner with outright contempt.
Netanyahu must now apply himself urgently to the escalating danger of the coronavirus in which has 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. Although Netanyahu appointed Professor Ronni Gamzu as coronavirus project coordinator, he has allowed his ministers, including members of the corona cabinet, to consistently undermine him and issue contradictory statements that utterly confuse the public.
Until now, no serious effort has been made to curb the rate of infection within the Haredi and the Arab sectors. His pathetic last-minute surrenders to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox have outraged the nation and escalated societal tensions and hatred. Until now decisions and policies have been floated but invariably delayed by political pressures to which Netanyahu invariably conceded.
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.
It is still unclear whether Professor Gamzu is the right person to be leading the fight against corona or whether his program of distinguishing between cities was feasible. He may have been overly optimistic in believing we could reduce the numbers without a lockdown which unless there is a last-minute flip flop, is planned to come into effect from Rosh Hashanah.
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 with the pending U.S elections. Should former vice-president Democrat 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 that a revolution is taking place in the lower ranks of the Democratic party. This was exemplified by how close the far-left Bernie Sanders came to win the nomination for the Democratic presidential nominee.
The radicalization of the Democratic party includes extending the “big tent” to include outright anti -Semites 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, many of whom are strongly anti-Israeli and pro BDS. Some of these were also backed by radical Jews. In fact, it is said that today being anti-Israeli is the DNA test for being accepted within the ”progressive” Democratic camp.
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 the current security policies of the present government which are endorsed by most Israelis. Biden has also pledged to reverse the Trump policies and reinstate the disastrous 2015 deal with Iran, whose leader still publicly boasts that Israel’s annihilation remains at the top of his agenda.
But even in the best scenario, Biden will revert to Obama’s “even-handed” policy, where Israel and the terrorists are regarded as morally equivalent and the U.S. reinstates UNWRA and other payments, including funds which incentivize terrorists to kill Israelis.
Should Biden, in his apparent semi-comatose state be elected, he is unlikely to resist pressures from his rapidly expanding radical base. His vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris has supported Israel in the past, but has a track record in the Senate, second only to Sanders, for supporting radical policies. Should Biden be obliged to step down and Harris assumes the presidency, it is questionable whether she would be willing to alienate her radical supporters who are stridently anti-Israel.
In this environment, the bastion of pro-Israel support of the Christian evangelicals has no political clout. Unfortunately, the Jews – other than the Orthodox – have leaders who no longer even fight against the anti-Semitism directly impacting on them.
Currently, only 5% of American Jews consider Israel a primary voting concern. Despite the fact that ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement includes radical anti-Israeli objectives in its charter and features prominent Jew baiters in its demonstrations, the majority of Jewish leaders support such bodies out of cowardice and out of a sick desperation to earn the affection of progressive groups.
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. Netanyahu must set aside his own personal political interests and in the face of the possible coming storms, start treating Benny Gantz and Blue and White with respect as genuine coalition partners so that we can present a united front to the world.
Gantz, for his part, should realize that he is now part of the government and must not act as leader of the opposition.
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.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom