We are experiencing a global nightmare that could result in millions of deaths. No one could have anticipated the extent of the coronavirus impact. The tragic images emerging from Italy, where patients over 60 are unable to obtain medical aid from the limited available medical services, are now being replicated in Spain and France. They could become a global pattern. They send shudders through all of us. We are still trying to comprehend and learn how to navigate through this nightmare.
In this context, the efforts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Health Ministry officials deserve the highest praise. While it is unfortunately unlikely that Israel will be able to prevent the spread of the virus, the Netanyahu government has nevertheless been leading the Western world in imposing strict measures to slow the pace.
Netanyahu has carefully explained the severity of the crisis to the country without creating panic and has done his utmost to create the optimal balance between maintaining essential services and introducing regulations to achieve social distancing and probably an ultimate total lockdown of the country. Without minimizing the extent of the possible emerging disaster, he has inspired confidence in the people that, under his mature leadership, our government will be able to make difficult decisions and navigate this crisis in the best possible manner. Ultimately, the outcome may depend on the compliance of civilians with all guidelines and restrictions.
As of now, most Israelis, including many who voted against him, are relieved that Netanyahu is currently in control. They shudder at the thought of inexperienced opposition leaders like Benny Gantz, Moshe Ya’alon or Yair Lapid governing the nation and making life-and-death decisions over how to manage the coronavirus.
One would assume that in face of such an unprecedented global health crisis, it would be obvious that a national unity government would be formed. But not so in this country where the hatred of Bibi has apparently driven some people insane and caused them to lose any sense of national responsibility.
If ever there was a time for a national unity government, it is now. There is a consensus across the entire population that it is imperative so why can’t our politicians get their act together? Are they so detached from the urgency of the situation that they do not see what everyone else sees?
It is beyond belief when one reads columnists in Haaretz pontificating that Bibi is a far greater threat than the coronavirus. They argue that first we need to get rid of Bibi, and only then can we direct our efforts to curbing the coronavirus. Have they lost their senses?
It is scandalous that while the majority of the nation are isolated in their homes, Blue and White leaders are still playing petty, inciting politics. Netanyahu appeared on the main TV channels on Saturday night and set out the terms of his offer for a national unity government. He offered the Blue and White party equal government representation with the right-wing bloc (even though they hold 33 seats to the 58 held by the right-wing bloc), with the key ministries of defense and foreign affairs and undertook that he would resign as prime minister after 18 months. An extremely generous offer, given the election results.
Hearing Netanyahu outline the offer and confirming that the terms of a national unity government have essentially been formulated, most Israelis were hugely relieved.
But within minutes, Lapid tweeted that Bibi is a liar and that Blue and White will persist in their efforts in the Knesset to oust him. Ya’alon proclaimed on TV that it really doesn’t matter what Netanyahu says or offers – he cannot be trusted and he must resign.
I have always respected Ya’alon as a man of integrity who placed the nation above all. But his bitter hatred has blinded him. In the midst of an unprecedented crisis of major proportions, he wants the only experienced leader with the ability to reassure the nation to step down in favor of an inexperienced politician lacking any governmental expertise. Does he really believe Gantz is capable of leading Israel in this crisis? And even if we set aside all reservations about him, is now the time to replace a leader who has demonstrated that he was ahead of the rest of the world in tackling this crisis?
Gantz has been offered the opportunity to become prime minister in 18 months, when hopefully the coronavirus will be behind us. Now is the time for Gantz to demonstrate true leadership qualities and to reject those who, because of their obsessive hatred of Netanyahu, are pressuring him to lead the county into disaster and reject a unity government.
For the sake of the country, we urge opposition leaders to set aside their hatred and focus solely on the welfare of this nation. There is no alternative but to form a national unity government at this time of emergency. Those who oppose this are literally putting our lives at risk. History will not forgive them.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom