Naftali Bennett Catches Flak Online for Pandemic Handling as Israel Faces Surge in COVID Cases
© REUTERS / POOLIsraeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem August 1, 2021.
© REUTERS / POOL
While the chief of the party Yamina has introduced a number of measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, many Israelis feel the steps were too little, too late. Now his political future is beginning to look bleak.
Before he took office on 13 June, Naftali Bennett, the chief of the party Yamina, was considered one of the most vocal critics of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to the pandemic.
It was Bennett touring towns and cities, hospitals and coronavirus wards across the nation. He even wrote a book "How to Defeat a Pandemic”, suggesting ways to cope with the virus without resorting to economically unviable lockdowns.
Now, two months after being sworn in, the end of the coronavirus is nowhere in sight. Quite the opposite is true as COVID appears to be getting stronger.
Recent weeks have seen a dramatic surge in the number of coronavirus cases, with an average of up to 6,000 a day. More than 50,000 people are currently infected, with over 500 individuals in critical condition.
The dire health situation has already prompted many Israelis to start questioning whether Bennett is actually up for the job. And a recent poll conducted by Israel's Channel 12 comparing Bennett's handling of the pandemic with that of Netanyahu's showed that 44 percent of respondents thought the former PM was more efficient in managing the crisis. Only 23 percent held similar views about Bennett.
Tweeps Boiling With Anger
People’s frustration with the current situation has since spilled over to social media, where the former PM is on the receiving end of praise for his efforts to tackle the pandemic.
"The coronavirus. Bibi blocked it. Bennett brought it back", said one Twitter user.
"Bennett is simply insane. He does not understand anything about COVID-19, so with what confidence does he [dare] to criticise the management of Netanyahu, defaming all those who worked days and nights to save lives? Not to mention that while Bennett slandered Netanyahu, leaders from all over the world called him to ask for advice on how to get their country out of the pandemic".
"Remember that picture of Bennett in a doctor's robe walking around with hospital administrators and doing his own PR during the coronavirus crisis? It happened while Netanyahu worked 20 hours a day and moved mountains to get vaccines and keep us all healthy. Today that crook [Bennett] is on vacation, sending us messages from his luxurious room that we need to get used to containing the dead", another netizen wrote.
In his two months in office, Bennett and his government have taken a number of measures to contain the spread of the virus. They reintroduced face masks in closed areas, limited the amount of people in mass gatherings, and imposed limitations on exiting and entering the country. But the general feeling has been that those steps were too little, too late and, most importantly, they didn't achieve their goal.
Everyone is to Blame
Bennett is not the only politician taking the heat. His government has been under fire too. Some parliamentarians were also slammed for not bothering to attend coronavirus cabinet meetings. Others were slammed for their reluctance to get jabs, thus contributing to the surge in new COVID cases.
"[FM] Lapid is in Morocco, connecting to the coronavirus cabinet meeting via Zoom and then counting on Bennett [to attend it]. Bennett himself is at a resort. [Finance Minister] Lieberman is not attending that meeting at all. [Defence Minister] Gantz opted to attend a wedding instead. Each one has their tasks", complained a Twitter user.
— ימנית מלידה🟢🍒 , ביביסטית גאה (@Y7AyRsNacYipVoP) August 14, 2021
Another one added: "His government has the highest number of coronavirus deniers. The minister of finance doesn't take part in coronavirus cabinet meetings. The foreign minister goes to Morocco, as if the virus didn't exist. Bennett cancels a meeting because of a vacation up north. The airport is open for all... what the hell are you doing to avoid a lockdown?"
Reports have already suggested that a fourth lockdown is planned at the end of the month or early September. It will last for a month and the government will have an option to extend it.
If that happens, Bennett’s political future might be on the rocks, Israeli analysts pointed out, and netizens are already painting doom and gloom on social media platforms. And this means that apart from a potential lockdown, a fifth general election might also be around the corner.
— מענדי גרוזמן (@mendy_gruzman) August 11, 2021
Tweet says: 98 percent of Israelis will not vote for him. A vast majority is slamming them for the way they mishandled the pandemic...