Why isn't the Defense Ministry responsible for war against COVID-19 yet?

Where is Gantz? The IDF can handle this fight, and he knows it. He should fight for it.

 Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
As the number of Israelis confirmed to have the deadly coronavirus keeps rising, those who understand the crisis say we need a military leader to get us back on track and through the winter.
At the time of writing, there were 22,704 Israelis battling the virus with 195 in serious condition and another 56 on ventilators. The total number of Israelis who lost their lives to the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the epidemic in the country rose to 375 by Wednesday morning.
That number will definitely rise.
So where is Benny Gantz, our defense minister, who signed a unity deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fight this virus?
It’s been three months since he signed that deal, something Israelis who voted for his Blue and White Party say was a betrayal by a man who swore never to sit with Netanyahu.
In those months, Israel went from one of the countries that successfully kept the virus under control to one that now sees more than a thousand people per day contract the virus.
You can blame the reopening of the economy, the return to schools, or the gathering of the public in large crowds. But at the end of the day, the buck stops with government officials.
When the virus first took hold in Israel, former defense minister Naftali Bennett was at the helm of the ministry and was one of the first to urge increasing the number of coronavirus tests and providing quick answers to identify those infected with the virus and quarantine them in separate facilities, in an attempt to save the economy from collapse.
Understanding the scale of the pandemic, Bennett called for transferring the responsibility of fighting the coronavirus from the Health Ministry to the IDF and defense establishment.
“We are in a war,” he said in March. “The IDF is a bulldozer and that’s what we need to fight against this virus.”
But that never happened either. And Gantz, who took over from Bennett, should still be pushing to get the responsibility of the fight under his ministry.
Like in the first wave, the IDF Home Front Command is hard at work in the field, day in, day out, providing all that is needed to communities placed under lockdown and running the 20 coronavirus hotels that have been opened across the country for patients in light condition and those who need a secure place to quarantine.
But the IDF, which excels in managing crises, should be handed more responsibility to effectively manage the crisis and bring the numbers down once again.
And Gantz, a former chief of staff, should be at the forefront of that fight. Instead, he is busy playing political games with Netanyahu. As though there were time for that.
According to senior political sources close to Netanyahu, Gantz is “playing games with corona[virus] that endanger the lives of Israeli citizens” by opposing measures that would help stop the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, a senior Blue and White official responded by saying that Netanyahu is playing with politics, “instead of giving up responsibility for managing the corona[virus] crisis.”
“Netanyahu should let the IDF win and let the Defense Ministry oversee the efforts in the field,” a senior Blue and White official said, adding that “this is not the time for politics or any battle that does not involve rehabilitating the economy, the health [system] and society.”
The Health Ministry was struggling in March to handle the crisis. It specializes in healthcare, but was not built to handle an emergency of this magnitude, as were the defense establishment and the IDF.
Though the Health Ministry has been able to save countless lives, it will be overwhelmed should the numbers continue to rise. We don’t want to see doctors in coronavirus wards having to choose between who they can and cannot save.
Gantz, as defense minister, should stand up to Netanyahu and demand that he and his ministry and IDF be responsible for handling this war.
The buck should stop with him.