If Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, had followed through on his July 1st deadline for annexing part of Judea and Samaria (West Bank), the brilliant Barbara Tuchman, if she were alive today, would have had to add another chapter to her classic “The March of Folly.” Wisely, with nearly the entire world ready to lower the boom on Israel, in a time of dire economic straits, Bibi has stepped back from the abyss.
The Prime Minister brushes off his failure to keep his pledge with a response like “the time is out of joint.” Naturally, the far-Right annexation camp, headed by Knesset members Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, are hauling Bibi over the coals. However, the vast majority of Israelis, many of them Likudniks now out of jobs due to COVID-19, are not upset – maybe they also breathed a sigh of relief.
Even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a friend of Israel, published an open letter in Yediot Ahronot, Isreal’s prominent newspaper. Johnson wrote that he was “fearful that the annexation proposals would fail to secure Israel’s long-term borders and be contrary to Israel’s long-term interests. ”
But Bibi’s long-standing prestige has not been bruised so far – he has just warned coalition partner Benny Gantz, of the Blue and White party, that he is ready and willing to go to yet another election if Gantz continues to question Netanyahu’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. At first, successfully tackling the pandemic with harsh closures, Bibi has fumbled the ball by lifting restrictions too early.
The second wave has just rebounded with a vengeance. So, it’s back to the drawing board, and the imposing of new restrictions that have overshadowed the annexation issue. The main bone of contention is that Defense Minister Gantz demands that the IDF civil defense apparatus play a greater role in combatting this new wave of COVID-19.
In the limelight, there are nearly 1 million Israelis who have lost their jobs, while the government’s financial resources for granting them assistance are fast running out. In very short order, the current payments to unemployed Israelis will dry up altogether. Early on, IsraCast proposed a dramatic and far-reaching measure to help the jobless survive.
The Israeli economy, based on its socialist leanings, has a relatively high number of employees on the public payroll not only in the civil service but also due to the public oversight of such huge ventures as the Electricity Corporation, Water Authority, and so on. Note that when Netanyahu served as Finance Minister nearly two decades ago under then PM Ariel Sharon, Bibi coined this iconic saying: “It’s like a thin man with narrow shoulders having to carry on his back an overweight partner from the public sector!”
Let’s dig deeper. The current reality is that the estimated 700,000 public sector employees have virtually not been clobbered economically by Corona. They keep drawing their same monthly salaries, or if they’re retired, their pensions. On the one hand, many Israelis have lost their livelihoods, maybe their homes, and possibly their futures, but on the other hand, public sector employees carry on as usual.
And for Israel, another key factor must be considered in light of the constant threat to its very existence by the fanatical Muslim state of Iran. This requires the sacrifice of young Israelis who, at the age of 18, must contribute over two years to intense military service in the IDF (Ultraorthodox Jews and Israeli Arab citizens are exempted). In addition, after that, they must also do a month or so of reserve duty for the next 20 years or so. Since the rebirth of the Jewish state in 1948, this sense of patriotic duty has been a major source of Israel’s strength as a unified nation. The bottom line is that many of our brothers and sisters in arms, through no fault of their own, may be turned into paupers while other Israeli citizens carry on their normal economic lives. Surely this sorry state of affairs must be remedied immediately.
To his credit, Finance Minister Israel Katz has declared, “Employees in the public sector must also make their financial contribution in this time of national emergency.” In other words, you guys and gals must be prepared to accept a pay cut to help bail out your fellow citizens.
Now, if we carry this approach forward, what about the fat cats in Israel’s thriving “hi-tech” private companies and other members of the private sector workforce? You don’t have to be an Alan Greenspan to understand that Israel now needs an emergency crash plan in this war of economic survival. Surely former Finance Minister Netanyahu is aware of this, and with his economic savvy, he should now concentrate all his energy on a suitable economic response. Again, bear in mind that the majority of Israel’s jobless are probably Likudniks who will welcome receiving government financial support rather than it being allocated to annexation. Besides, there’ll be plenty of time later to revive the annexation issue – Judea and Samaria are not going anywhere.