What made Netanyahu change his mind regarding lockdowns? - analysis

Night curfew expected to start at 7 p.m. this evening, was delayed 24 hours.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removing his mask (photo credit: ELI DASSA)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removing his mask
(photo credit: ELI DASSA)
Between Sunday morning, when coronavirus cabinet ministers decided to impose a lockdown of mainly haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Arab cities, and Sunday evening, when a night curfew was decided instead, something must have happened.
According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an address on Sunday evening, the reason for the change was not political. It was just that 10 more cities were added to the “red” list, and this necessitated a reassessment. Netanyahu made no mention of a strongly-worded letter from haredi mayors, in which they threatened to further destabilize him politically.
That letter must have had an impact on Netanyahu, whose bloc of loyalists has shrunk since he alienated Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Yamina head Naftali Bennett. All Netanyahu now has left – beside his own Likud – are United Torah Judaism and Shas, and he cannot afford to lose them.
The final thing that happened during those hours was that Bennett was greeted warmly in the haredi city of Elad, just as he has in Bnei Brak and Betar Illit.
What Bennett said in Elad did not make news, it was the banners and the smiles in that did the talking.
“Thank you Bibi, it’s time for Bennett,” banners said, and after they were picked up on social media news undoubtedly reached Netanyahu.
Bennett’s Yamina Party continues to rise in the polls, this time at the expense of Yesh Atid, which lost support due to last week’s rebellion against its leader, Yair Lapid.
A survey published by pollster Camil Fuchs for Channel 13 found that Yamina had overtaken Yesh Atid for second place, and it showed that if elections were to be held now, Likud would win 31 seats, Yamina 21 and Yesh Atid 18.
The results were broadcast on Monday night, two hours after Netanyahu’s address, in which he falsely accused Bennett of making controversial statements that were actually made only by Liberman. But Netanyahu has his own polls that show similar results.
With Netanyahu facing such numbers, it is no wonder he considered his own political well-being in making his decisions and not, as he stated, the health of the nation.