An unlikely attempt to cross party lines and fight coronavirus

Netanyahu suggested that Israelis use the respectful Indian greeting of namaste instead of shaking hands, which would be a refreshing union of the opposing political camps.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recommends Israelis use the namaste greeting to avoid contracting coronavirus at a press conference in Jerusalem on March 4 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recommends Israelis use the namaste greeting to avoid contracting coronavirus at a press conference in Jerusalem on March 4
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party won Israel’s March 2 elections, beating Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party. But Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc had 58 seats, while Gantz claimed that the anti-Netanyahu camp had the support of 62 in the 120-seat Knesset.
“I intend to be the prime minister of all Israeli citizens, without exception,” Netanyahu declared in a victory speech at Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv. “We have been through some tough election campaigns. It is time to stop running for elections and to form a government in Israel. It is time to mend the gaps. It’s time for reconciliation.”
Gantz voiced a similar message in his address to Blue and White supporters in Tel Aviv. “Israel needs to heal,” he declared. “It needs unity. It needs reconciliation and leadership, and we will continue to offer this to the public.”
What’s most important now is for President Reuven Rivlin and the leaders of the main political parties to find a way to form a new government (Israel’s 35th) and Knesset (the 23rd) that will act in the interests of all Israelis and promote national unity after one of the ugliest election campaigns in the country’s history. It’s time for Israeli politicians to put the political acrimony and personal mudslinging aside, and consider what’s good for the country.
“We don’t deserve another awful and grubby election campaign... and we don’t deserve this never-ending instability,” Rivlin said after voting in Jerusalem. “We deserve a government that works for us.”
After the last election in September, Rivlin presented Netanyahu and Gantz with a presidential proposal that called for two prime ministers serving in “a shared government.” That model was rejected by Gantz, who refused to sit with a prime minister facing a corruption indictment.
Netanyahu is set to go on trial on March 17 in the Jerusalem District Court on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, and Gantz hasn’t budged from his refusal to join a national-unity government so long as Netanyahu continues to lead the Likud.
If neither Netanyahu nor Gantz can establish a government, then Rivlin must intervene in the national interest and push for national unity. If Israel is to recover and rebound after three harmful and costly elections, as well as the damage caused by coronavirus, its leaders must rally together in a new spirit of reconciliation.
The Israeli people need to know that the country did not hold three elections for nothing, and that a new government and Knesset will act on behalf of all the country’s citizens to make Israel safe and secure, confront Iran’s efforts to expand its regional tentacles, make progress on the Trump peace plan, stabilize the economy and counter the coronavirus threat.
There are critical budgets – from health to military – to be passed, key legislation awaiting Knesset approval in a range of areas – from Haredi conscription to civil marriage – and important appointments to be made, such as those of police commissioner and state attorney.
The last thing Israel needs now is another stalemate that could force a fourth election. The country – led by the president and the politicians – must rally together to find a way to heal itself from the harm caused by the last three elections and move Israel forward toward a future in which it can continue to thrive.
In announcing draconian measures to control coronavirus, Netanyahu suggested that Israelis use the respectful Indian greeting of namaste instead of shaking hands. It would be refreshing to see a namaste between the opposing political camps so that they can stand together to combat Israel’s adversaries and coronavirus – but that, unfortunately, appears to be an unlikely scenario.


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