Israel amid COVID-19, unstable politics: Where do we go from here? - opinion

The ego-chasing opportunities that our politicians created in our country’s uncertain political situation has driven some hopefuls to insanity.

 PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.  (photo credit: EMIL SALMAN / FLASH 90)
PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: EMIL SALMAN / FLASH 90)

It is now two years since the first outbreak of COVID-19 hit Israel. According to the Health Ministry, to date there have been approximately 1.79 m. cases of COVID-19 infections and, regrettably, over 8,000 people have died from the disease.

Worldwide, more than 5.5 m. people have succumbed to COVID-19 in its different variations. This month, the numbers have spiked and in Israel between January 4 and 17 alone, 387,214 new infections were recorded.

The effect on the economy is bordering on catastrophic. Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), an American company that provides commercial data, analytics, and insights for businesses, reported that the GDP for 2020 fell worldwide by an estimated -4.2%. For the Eurozone, the report was -7.5% and for Israel it was -3.7%. Only China grew, by 2.2%, in 2020.

On the other hand, The Jerusalem Post reported a study by D&B that Israel’s economy grew by 7% in 2021, beating the global average of 5.9%. “The entire global economy and the Israeli economy in particular, showed an improvement in economic and business indices in 2021, after in 2020, it was significantly affected by the coronavirus,” Efrat Segev, VP of Data and Analysis at Dun & Bradstreet, was quoted in the article. The high tech industry was the key source of growth for Israel in 2021.

The good news is that the Israeli Finance Ministry forecasts 4.7% growth in 2022, as private consumption and tax revenues continue to rise.

THE KNESSET building in Jerusalem holds one of the world’s smallest legislatures. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)THE KNESSET building in Jerusalem holds one of the world’s smallest legislatures. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Currently, the political situation in Israel is unstable. The government, although it describes itself as a unity government, is more diverse and more discordant than ever. It comprises ministers from the Yamina party and those formerly from the Likud on the Right, to Labor and Meretz on the Left, as well as from the Arab United List, which pursues its own interests and aligns with whomever it sees as more advantageous. The government is deeply polarized and operates on a razor-thin majority that is dependent on every vote. In practice, this means that every bill that comes before the cabinet needs a substantial number of amendments before it can be agreed upon. If you would not know it, you would never believe that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is the leader of the Yamina party and that the voter base that brought him to power was from the Modern Orthodox sector of society. His policies are unrecognizable from what he promised before the election. His current political position is the best example that as a person’s power increases, their moral sense diminishes.

In a letter to Bishop Creighton in 1887, Sir John Dalberg-Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men...” It is a pity that we are able to apply this maxim to the current leader of the Jewish state. I have said a dozen times that Bennett has turned 180 degrees in order to retain his position as prime minister.

I suppose that he reminds himself of the famous quote from English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, which in his mind he changes to “’tis better to have had power and lost than never to have had power at all,” because he has to hand over the premiership to Yair Lapid on August 27, 2023, according to an amendment to a Basic Law and the rotation agreement. Whether the government will last until then is doubtful, considering the narrow majority and many opposing voices.

According to opinion polls, if an election were held today and Yamina would join with Likud, we could expect a right-wing majority government. If Netanyahu signs a plea agreement that avoids the clause moral turpitude, it may even be under his leadership. In my opinion, that would save the country from further collapse into the dictates of the Arab MKs in the present government coalition.

Opposition leader Benyamin Netanyahu is indicted on several cases of allegedly having broken the law.

The fact that he is deciding on whether to sign a plea agreement, in my mind, implies that he is guilty. If clause moral turpitude is included in the deal, he cannot hold any official position for the next seven years, at which time he would be 79 years old - the current age of United States President Joe Biden.

The following are two definitions of the crime of moral turpitude:

  1. It describes wicked, deviant behavior constituting an immoral, unethical or unjust departure from ordinary social standards, such that it would shock a community.
  2. It is basically a crime that is done recklessly or with evil intent, and which shocks the public conscience as inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between people or society in general.

Unfortunately, these are not easy or clear definitions.

Do you believe that this description applies to any of the actions for which Netanyahu stands trial?

At the beginning, I asked where do we go from here? It is likely that the COVID-19 virus will appear in two or three more variants, hopefully of lesser intensity, and then it will remain as an occasional nuisance that can be eliminated by an effective vaccine or in due cause be developed as part of the annual flu shot.

As to Israel’s future, there is no doubt that we shall remain here as a state. However, if we continue on the present path, the Zionist dream that drove us to return to our ancient homeland will be replaced by just another state where Jews are simply a large part of the population – a situation that we could long ago have had in Uganda or in Birobidzhan, former Soviet Union.

The ego-chasing opportunities that our politicians created in our country’s uncertain political situation has driven some hopefuls to insanity. Consequently, I reiterate that it is imperative for this Bennett government to fall and be replaced by one that views our country as the inheritance of God’s promise first to Abraham in Genesis, confirmed to Abraham’s son Isaac, and then to Isaac’s son Jacob. We have waited two thousand years to finally return to our ancient Jewish homeland and no manner of modern politics or political correctness will change that.

The writer is 98 years old, a survivor of the Nazi era and a WWII front-line veteran.