Coronavirus checkpoint in Beersheva, Israeli police Twitter photo via Wikimedia Commons
BESA Center Perspectives Document no. 1,752, 17 September 2020
P EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In trying to tackle an elusive global pandemic that is fraught with unknowns, experts often have to make decisions based on the worst-case scenario. The next three-week blockade of Israel is a legitimate and necessary tool that can limit the rate of infection growth, as did the blockades during the first wave in Israel and around the world. It has not escaped the impression that many critics of this measure, especially those who attribute it to Prime Minister Netanyahu self-interest, are aiming for a general demolition as a means of removing him from office.
The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel is proving to be harsher than its predecessor,and the data on its spread are staggering. How did we find ourselves in a situation that threatens the foundations of Israeli society and the nation’s high-tech economy?
The steadfast success of governments during the first wave, in which the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu rescued the ship from a raging storm and brought it to a safe harbor, was recognized by most Israelis, as evidenced by many polls that found a profit large for the Likud Party, up to 40 seats or more.
The flattening of the curve as a first-order task was accomplished largely thanks to an airtight block, and no less than that by meticulously implemented by the public. Even in the prevailing circumstances at the time, there were those in the media and in the political system who rumored about shadowy political plots, which were ostensibly guiding governments in decision-making.
Opinion leaders in the Israeli media went so far as to claim, just as the first wave was coming to an end, that there really was no pandemic other than infections in the Haredi sector, which listens to rabbis and not government authorities, and to nursing homes. , which they portrayed as a mature government failure to investigate.
The current rate of dramatic infection in Israel is not predetermined, but largely a result of public contempt and disregard for social distance instructions that made decisions at the political and professional levels completely ineffective. This trend was also fueled by the perceived application of different standards to different sectors when it comes to enforcing restrictions on rallies, and especially by the focus on very specific population groups.
Legal restrictions preventing decision-makers from enforcing social distance restrictions on mass demonstrations outside the prime minister’s residencein flagrant violation of Supreme Court President Aharon BarakThe decision that limited demonstrations in front of Prime Minister Rabins’s official residence during the Oslo process constitutes a Pirro victory for self-proclaimed defenders of freedom of expression. In addition to its immediate adverse health implications, the inevitable consequence of this absurdity is to encourage opposition even among those who have already internalized the need to obey the rules.
And as if that were not enough, agenda-driven public health experts and commentators continue to say that demonstrations should continue and even expand on the field as there is no risk of outdoor infection. The claim that there is no evidence to refute that claim is unfounded and dangerous both from a health and social point of view.
In the fight against a new and elusive global pandemic that is shrouded in obscurity and the unknown, experts must make decisions based on strict working assumptions. In an analogy from the world of intelligence, there are substantial gaps in the information available about the various aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, and this means that the decision on how to treat it should be based on the worst-case scenarios.
Blocking is, therefore, a legitimate and reality-mandated tool at this time. Its success in reducing the rate of infection depends on compliance and public awareness of the nature and scope of the challenge ahead. If applied with determination, skill and sensitivity, this blockage can curb the increase in the rate of infection just like its predecessors during the first wave in Israel and around the world.
It has not escaped the impression that many of the critics of this measure, and especially those who attribute it to Prime Minister Netanyahu self-interest, are aiming for a general break-up as a means of removing him from office.
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Dr. Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen is a retired colonel who served as a senior analyst at IDF Military Intelligence.
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