For Gamzu to win, gov't needs to get politics out of the way

To avoid giving Bennett a win, Netanyahu preferred to play political games with lives on the line.

Ronni Gamzu, Israel’s next “coronavirus czar” (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / SHIRLEY SHANI)
Ronni Gamzu, Israel’s next “coronavirus czar”
Everything that Ronni Gamzu, the new coronavirus “czar,” said at his news conference in Jerusalem on Monday made sense. He unveiled what he called a “Shield of Israel” strategic plan, calling for a new social contract between those managing the coronavirus crisis and the public, ordering the IDF to take over testing and tracing, and pledging more oversight while gathering and presenting data logically and transparently.
Speaking after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Gamzu urged citizens to always wear protective face masks, showing on a graph that countries that have enforced mask-wearing rules have seen a decline in their infection rates.  
He announced plans for a “traffic light” system for gauging coronavirus levels in different parts of the country, color-coding municipalities similar to traffic lights: green, amber and red.
●    “Green” locations will have more freedom and         fewer restrictions.
●     “Amber” ones will receive additional funding per  resident, with the aim to turn the city “green.”
●     “Red” localities will be run by the IDF Home         Front Command together with the local authority     in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Inspiring confidence that he really knows what he’s talking about, Gamzu – a former Health Ministry director-general and CEO of Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center – declared: “We won’t allow any more restrictions without logic. I will not allow harm to the economy without a logical reason. I am responsible.”
While we applaud Gamzu and his plan, we cannot help but recall that former defense minister and Yamina leader Naftali Bennett came up with a very similar plan months ago – which was rejected by Netanyahu and his government.
Bennett presented his proposal to the cabinet in April, based on meetings he had held with epidemiologists and experts from across the country. That plan, inter alia, called for the appointment of a national task force to establish a program of widespread testing and data collection, insisted that the IDF oversee the handling of the COVID-19 crisis and presented a traffic light model for the reopening of the economy under strict regulations.
Sound familiar? While we fully back Gamzu’s initiative and urge all citizens to rally behind his Shield of Israel plan, we cannot but wonder what would have happened if Netanyahu had not spurned Bennett and his proposal. If the government had adopted Bennett’s plan, would Israel have had to experience a second wave? Is it possible that spiraling infections could have been prevented and lives saved?
After faring really well after the outbreak of the virus, Israel is now ranked low on the totem pole of countries combating it. That’s why it was particularly strange to hear Netanyahu preaching to world leaders on Wednesday in a conference call hosted by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
The prime minister said Israel is testing as many as 30,000 people a day and hopes to increase that figure by using an industrial-sized system that can test en mass, and by using a new method for rapid detection and isolation. He shared the lesson the country had learned from the first peak of the pandemic: to limit gatherings to prevent infection.
Unfortunately, the only plausible answer to this is that “politics” got in the way. Netanyahu did not want to give the IDF authority during the first wave since that would have been viewed as a victory for Bennett. Basically, the prime minister preferred to play political games with lives on the line.
Although we and others, including President Reuven Rivlin, have been saying this repeatedly ever since the national-unity government was established in May, let’s say it again: Now is the time to put politics aside for the sake of the whole country and its citizens. Our government should from now on listen closely to Prof. Gamzu and we should all follow his instructions. Gamzu himself said he is putting past mistakes aside and looking ahead to concentrate on creating a better future for us all.
We applaud Gamzu’s endeavor and pray that it works. No one, including the government, should be allowed to put obstacles in his path. He must be given free reign to reverse the worrying spike in infections in Israel, and return the country to a place we can all be proud of.