Israel's healthcare system is crumbling under Netanyahu

Everything that is happening now could have been predicted with respect to how COVID-19-related issues have been handled over the past few months.

CURRENT MINISTER-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi catches the ear of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in 2016. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
CURRENT MINISTER-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi catches the ear of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in 2016.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
None of the events that are taking place these days with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic are surprising or unexpected. Everything that is happening now could have been predicted with respect to how COVID-19-related issues have been handled over the past few months.
Over the past 10 years, the government has failed to properly maintain the country’s healthcare system. The last time the Israeli government made any kind of contribution to Israel’s healthcare was in 2009, when it opened up a new medical school in Safed, and that decision was not made during Bibi’s tenure, but during the previous administration.
Other than this one improvement, the entire health system in Israel has been abandoned, many positions have been frozen for years, and doctors’ worker conditions – especially for young doctors who are just entering the field – have been unbearable for years. So many doctors have given up hope of trying to make a living in Israel, and some have even taken attractive offers for positions in hospitals in Europe, North and South America, and Australia.
Israel’s young doctors who are just starting out in their careers, as well as those who’ve been working in the system for many years, are all excellent. The same goes for all of our quality nurses, paramedics, medical administrators, lab technicians and emergency service workers. They’re all in the same predicament and suffering from the same extent from extreme neglect.
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Israel, the health system was already weak and suffering from neglect of the government, which did not consider it a priority. When Health Ministry officials finally got around to checking their storage rooms to see if they had the necessary essential equipment to deal with the contagion that was spreading rapidly throughout the entire world, they were shocked to see that we did not have what we needed. These words are not being said now in hindsight. They were written here explicitly and accurately months ago when it all was just starting.
If our health system had been properly equipped with the right tools, we could have identified the danger of the epidemic at the end of 2019 and acquired the appropriate equipment and supplies necessary to carry out mass testing. We could have reduced the amount of time it takes to get test results from days to hours and minutes. From the outset, a national emergency chief should have been appointed to manage the crisis; someone who would have been subordinate to the defense minister. No instructions were given to activate the only headquarters that had the tools, experience and manpower to handle a pandemic of such proportions.
In the absence of testing materials, labs, appropriate personnel, a logistics system and a coordinated, efficient, calm and unobtrusive operation, there was only one thing left to do: Engage the theater of panic.
THE COVID-19 pandemic was a godsend for our prime minister, who is smug, enterprising, indecisive and frightened by what the courts have in store for him. He believes that the prosecution is coming up with false accusations in order to bring about a government revolution that threatens Israel’s democracy. There couldn’t have been a better opportunity for Netanyahu to turn the pendulum and use the COVID-19 crisis as a jumping-off point that will help him leap back into the height of popularity, which he feared he’d lost. He had to make a choice: Deal with the contagion in an orderly fashion or create panic.
The means needed to deal with the pandemic did not exist. So the only alternative was panic. I called Netanyahu’s nightly appearances on TV “The Panic Theater” because that’s exactly what it was. Our media became obsessed with these nightly performances that took place between 8 and 9 p.m., as if they were a drug. The TV networks contributed greatly to the atmosphere of panic and intimidation as the confidence of the Israeli people was undermined. It was is if there was no responsible adult around to soften the daily performances starring the prime minister.
Moshe “Barsi” Bar Siman-Tov and Sigal Sadetzki - was it really necessary to broadcast Netanyahu’s horror show each evening? Didn’t you find it a bit excessive to start the evening by preparing the public for the prime minister’s important pronouncements? Each night he would repeat the same messages of intimidation and exaggeration. He managed to disseminate his own personal hysterical style among a population that was devoid of information and dependent upon officials who seemed to be qualified and knowledgeable.
Netanyahu didn’t know or understand anything about how to stop the spread of the mass contagion or how to help people who’d been infected to recover quickly with minimum personal and environmental harm. He did, however, understand what could have created the circumstances that would help bring him back from the precipice that his black future held for him.
And yes, Netanyahu was busy planning his own economic escape plan. We were all scared that the epidemic could disrupt all of our lives, which is what actually happened. The hysterical lockdown led to massive unemployment, as so many people were fired from their jobs, and so many families, especially the poorest, are currently struggling to survive financially.
While all of us were social distancing by not meeting friends, going to the movies, concerts and restaurants, not having our children or grandchildren visit because they wanted to keep us safe, Netanyahu was sitting in his cockpit with his greedy wife and crazy son, thinking up new ways to squeeze more money out of the state coffers. In short, while we were taking precautions to help prevent the spread of contagion, fearful for our lives and feeling insecure in this new unknown world, Netanyahu and his family were busy stealing from the public.
WHILE NETANYAHU has been charged with accepting bribes, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty, just as I had hoped to be while I was facing charges. Back then, however, Netanyahu was the one who, in an extensive media campaign, denied me that right. I have nothing to say about the charges – the court will make these decisions. But in the meantime, Netanyahu found a simpler way to circumvent the bribery offenses: by accepting gifts.
These gifts were not something symbolic, like presents people give each other for their birthday or to family on holidays. They involved millions, tens of millions, from rich friends. For the meantime, the attorney-general has succeeded in minimizing this public bribe, but it’s not clear how long he will be able to make this last.
The distance from here to bulls**t is short. Minister-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi - who said last week that reports of people going hungry is bulls**t (harta in Hebrew) is not full of bulls**t; he is a worthy man who has carried out a great amount of public service. There was a time when I thought he was made of the stuff that brings people to top leadership positions. Unfortunately, in recent years, he chose to join Netanyahu’s entourage of protectors.
It’s a shame. His recent slip of the tongue was not representative of his beliefs, and he apologized for his words. It’s symbolic of what his leader, the prime minister, represents.
The bulls**t is stronger than the panic that Netanyahu is creating. It’s more powerful than the legitimate concern about the second wave of contagion, which appears to be spreading, and no one knows what can be done to stop it.
I’m not saying anything that the experts who advise the prime minister and his friends haven’t already said. I heard what was said by Prof. Eli Waxman, who according to everyone involved, pointed out early on what is likely to happen.
He said that “We don’t have the means to properly deal with the second wave therefore we will have to apply complete quarantine” in other words - complete construction - “in a matter of two weeks.”
This wasn’t said by a member of the opposition party Yesh Atid or someone from Yamina. This statement was made by a brilliant physicist who heads the panel of experts advising the National Security Council’s deliberations on combating the pandemic.
And what about the prime minister? Bulls**t, as Hanegbi said.. He’s pretending to fight to save the country and protect its citizens. In reality, he’s struggling to save himself, his wife and his son, and to grab as much cash as he can along the way.
The days in which Netanyahu could boast about how world leaders would call him up to hear about how we defeated COVID-19 are long gone, probably never to return. People in South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Germany and many other countries are laughing at Netanyahu’s smug arrogance. They’ve all successfully handled the crisis with common sense and restraint and by taking responsibility.
The prime minister failed in the truly important struggle for all of us. It’s clear to everyone that the government has no effective, responsible and genuine solution to block the second wave of mass contagion without calling for another lockdown, which will completely cripple the economy. In the meantime, it appears that he’s succeeding in his own private war, which has nothing to do with our country’s real problems.
Everything is bulls**t.
The author was the 12th prime minister of Israel.