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Israel heading for a Corona government

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Sending you a newsletter at this difficult time is first of all a message of hope. Hoping that we will overcome this crisis, and that we will be able to concentrate again on our previous concerns, on the commitments we share, which make our lives and our search for a fairer world meaningful—a world where all the people of this earth would find their place. As regards JCall’s main goal, a commitment for Israelis and Palestinians to find a solution to the conflict that has been ongoing between them for such a long time, and to agree to share that land and live in peace side by side.

There will be an aftermath to this crisis, but it should be different from the world we know now. As President Macron said,  once that war against the virus will be won, we will have to challenge our way of life, our styles of production and consumption, the way we govern and share things… and draw conclusions.

First of all, we will have to reconsider the place granted by our heath systems to our health care workers who are today at the forefront in order to protect us, and to give them the means badly needed everywhere now. The hospital should not be considered anymore as a cost center, but as a precious asset. In Europe, we enjoy the benefits of a social protection guaranteed by the Welfare State model, but it is not the case elsewhere. Especially not in the United States, where the current President got on to doing away with Obamacare, the universal protection system set up by his predecessor (Hopefully, this crisis will encourage his electors to vote for another candidate next time).

In Israel, that sanitary crisis erupted at a time when the health system was in a disastrous situation. According to the OECD’s data, in Israel the ratio of hospital beds for inhabitants is 3 to 1000 while in France (where 100000 beds or so have been suppressed these last twenty years, like in numerous other countries), the ratio is 7 to 1000. In Israel, the current leaders of the country are responsible for that situation, since during the last decade they have favoured investments in the settlements or in the support of institutions attached to ultra-Orthodox parties instead of promoting the development of the  country’s infrastructure. Later on, it will be necessary to name commissions in order to put things in perspective and assign the responsibilities. In spite of early border closure measures to aliens and of an isolation of 2 weeks imposed on Israelis coming home, the progress of the epidemic is similar to the one we experience in Europe. After having  set up partial confinement measures in order to limit their impact on economy, the government decided to impose a total confinement. But one of the main difficulties is to have it respected, especially by the ultra-orthodox population that, as a result of its way of life, is cut off from the media and the social networks.

This sanitary and economic crisis adds up nonetheless to the political crisis the country has been immersed in for more than a year, and that is being solved following Gantz’s decision to join a National Union governement. In order to understand the situation, we must take a closer look to the results of the elections. Once the votes counted, Netanyahu obtained only the support of 58 deputees out of 120. Of course, he succeeded, in getting back some of his electors who had abstained from voting on the second round; but it was not enough to give him a parliamentary majority , considering that the percentage of voters had increased by 2 points since the first round. The Blue White party won 70 000 more votes since September,  by drumming up most voters of Avoda (the Labour party) and Meretz which lost all together 4 deputees. But the most significant jump was that of the Joint List gaining 110 000 votes more thanks to a strong mobilization of Arab voters with a turnout of 65% close to the national turnout of 70,5%. The election of 15 deputees of the Joint List, with the support of Lieberman’s party, Ysrael Beitenu, allowed Gantz to get a majority of 61 deputees (taking into account the defection of Orli Levy-Abecassis, elected on the Left list).

But, even though he had been appointed by President Rivlin to form a government, Benny Gantz chose to join the right bloc in order to form a National Union government that would be led by Netanyahu for one year and a half, and by himself the next 18 months. That decision of Gantz”s caused immediately the explosion of the Blue White bloc, the 33  deputees elected under that label dividing themselves into two parliamentary groups: on the one hand, 17 deputees follow Benny Gantz, and on the orher hand, 16 deputees led by Yair Lapid and MosheYaalon remain in the opposition. According to the agreement currently being negotiated, the deputees of his party would be assigned the same number of ministerial portfolios as the 58 deputees of the right bloc. Gantz would get various ministries such as the Ministry of Justice (a high office, in light of Netanyahu’s trial postponed till May and to other trials to be held later on for right ministers equally indicted), the Ministry of Communication, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs… Target of criticism among the left deputees,and his ex- allies in Blue White such as Yair Lapid and Moshe Yaalon, and criticized as well by Avigdor Lieberman, Gantz considered that he did not have a real alternative in the context of the present sanitary crisis. A government supported by the 61 deputees of his ‘bloc” would never have emerged because members of his own party would have defected. Furthermore, a majority of the population was in favour of the emergency of a national union, according to a first poll showing that 61% of the public and 56% of the Blue White electors support Gantz’s position.

The urgency of the sanitary situation and its economic consequences will certainly lead very soon to an agreement. The country cannot keep operating with a transition government  and without a budget, the way it has been doing for a year now. Since the beginning of the crisis, nearly one million persons registered as unemployed, and it is necessary to take steps to help them without delay. We will pay attention to the political choices of that new government and we will express our support to all future initiatives likely to lead to the end of  occupation.

However that crisis already had consequences that will mark a turning point in the political life of the country. Two tabous existing since the creation of the country have been lifted. The first one, within the Jewish population and its representatives in the Knesset,  involved the exclusion  of representatives of the Arab community from the running of the country. An indefensible rejection whereas  in Israeli hospitals, Jewish and Arab health care workers fight together the epidemic at the risk of their lives. Avigdor Lieberman’s support of Benny Gantz as candidate for the post of Prime Minister, together with the Joint List he recently qualified of “fifth column”, is quite meaningful.

The second tabou in the Arab population and among its representatives in the Knesset consisted in refusing to propose to the President, following the election of a new Knesset, a candidate belonging to a Zionist party for the post of Prime Minister. This time, all the deputies of the Joint List voted for Benny Gantz, even though he was the Chief of Staff of Tsahal during the last Gaza war. Remember that during the elections of 2015, the same Joint List had even refused to sign withdrawal agreements with the Meretz (Zionist left).

Just as the Covid-19 does not know the difference between the rich and the poor, nor between immigrants and “natural-born” citizens, it does not tell it between Jews and Arabs in Israel, nor between israelis and Palestinians. That planetary threat must make us realize that by protecting our neighbour, whoever he is, we protect ourselves.

Meanwhile, we must keep following the instructions and protect ourselves by staying  at home, in order to support the struggle of all the medical teams in the world.

We wish you and your loved ones to stay healthy.

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