With early travel restrictions and extensive closings, Startup Nation largely contained the spread of Covid-19, recording a mortality rate that was much better than many countries in the Western world. When the coronavirus tore through the United States and Europe, Israel was comfortably moving toward reopening.
Lest there be any doubt about who led the country during these difficult times, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu routinely held evening press conferences to remind everyone, warning of the latest challenges and credit for the recent victories.
On April 18, nearly two months after Israel discovered its first coronavirus, Netanyahu announced that the country had succeeded in combating the coronavirus, setting an example to the world “in saving lives and preventing an outbreak of the epidemic.” He expected Israel to set an example in restarting the economy as well.
If the story just ends there.
The first wave of coronavirus in Israel was a success story, but the second wave that health experts are indexing seems to be on the right track to a completely different end.
Just weeks after reopening restaurants, shopping malls and beaches, Israel is now witnessing a 50-fold increase in new coronavirus cases. From about 20 new cases a day in mid-May to more than 1,000 new cases a day in less than two months, Israel is once again quick to close the places it recently reopened.
On Monday, Netanyahu announced that gyms, swimming pools, event halls, pubs, etc. will be closed indefinitely, while restaurants and places of worship will operate in limited numbers. Netanyahu desperate to avoid a complete closure with unemployment already at more than 20%, Netanyahu issued a blatant warning.
Netanyahu “Today, there are about 90 serious cases and the number doubles every four days. If we do not act now, we will have hundreds, perhaps more than 1,000 acute cases in the coming weeks, which will paralyze our systems.” He said. “All citizens of Israel know, or need to understand, that we must now take limited measures, with minimal economic impact, in order to avoid those extreme measures that would cripple the economy.”
The public’s confidence in Netanyahu’s handling of the coronavirus is fading fast. From a high of 73% in mid-May when the country appeared to have a Covid-19 under control, Netanyahu’s approval fell to 46%, according to surveys conducted by Channel 12 News.
Professor Segal Saditzky, the chief public health official of the Ministry of Health, resigned on Tuesday, criticizing the government for its handling of the epidemic. She wrote in a Facebook post explaining the reasons for her decision, “Unfortunately, it has spread to deal with the outbreak of the disease for several weeks. Despite regular and systematic warnings in different systems and in discussions in different forums, we are seeing disappointed with the low hour glass of opportunity.”
The national unity government, created in May to deal with the coronavirus, appears more interested in political quarrels between Netanyahu and his former rival Benny Gantz.
The two men fought a battle over the best way to deal with the fight against coronavirus – Prime Minister Netanyahu with anti-terror tools of the Israeli Security Agency, or Defense Minister Gantz with the arrival and arrangement of the country’s army.
Distrust between the two men has become palpable, but critics accuse that what has not emerged from the government or its coronavirus cabinet is a clear and definitive plan to contain the second wave of the coronavirus.
“This government is nonsense, and the prime minister is full of folly,” said former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, a permanent right-hand fork on Netanyahu’s side.