Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held a primetime press conference about his Covid-19 policies Monday evening. It went poorly for him.
Channel 12’s reporter Ofer Hadad spoke for many Israelis when he said, “Mr. Prime Minister, on the one hand, you’re signaling urgency and fear, and on the other hand, confusion.
“You decide to require a Green Pass for entry into shopping malls, and then you do an about face. You call for children to get vaccinated and then we discover that the Education Minister is — at best — refusing to mobilize the school system to this end. You ask the citizens of Israel not to travel abroad. And then your family flies off to the Maldives. You’re confusing us.”
Bennett’s confused and contradictory policies on Covid—19 are of a piece with his confusing and failed policies in every other major policy sphere. From his dealing with the Biden administration, the Palestinians, Iran, Diaspora Jewry, the economy and beyond, Bennett’s policies are a muddle of self-defeating contradictions.
Consider the situation with the Biden administration. Bennett said that by forming a radical ruling coalition dominated by the left and the Islamist Ra’am Party, he would vastly improve Israel’s relations with the administration. Bennett and his partner Foreign Minister Yair Lapid insisted that then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had brought Israel-U.S. relations to a crisis through his close relations with then President Donald Trump and the Republican party. Bennett and Lapid claimed that once they took charge, ties with the Biden administration would vastly improve.
But the opposite has occurred. On Tuesday, Channel 13 reported that for the past three weeks, President Joe Biden has refused to speak with Bennett. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken refuses to engage in any serious discussion of the administration’s Iran policies.
In a phone call with Bennett three weeks ago, Blinken reportedly refused to seriously discuss Iran’s nuclear program and the nuclear talks in Vienna. Instead, he focused obsessively on Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and Jewish neighborhoods in northern, eastern and southern Jerusalem to which the administration passionately objects. Blinken escalated the administration’s demands that Israel bar construction for Jews in Jerusalem’s northern Atarot neighborhood.
Blinken’s animosity reinforced the already strong sense that the Biden administration views Israel as an irritant, not an ally. For Blinken, Biden and their colleagues, Israel is the problem in the Middle East. As for their supporters on the radical left, Biden and his team wrongly view Israel as the “occupier” in its capital and national heartland.
Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan arrived in Israel on Tuesday. Whereas Bennett’s advisors told the media that the purpose of his visit was to discuss Iran, a U.S. official insisted that Sullivan’s primary goal was to step up the pressure on Israel to bar Jews from building homes in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and only after would he discuss Iran.
Bennett has no policy for managing relations with the most hostile U.S. administration in history. Although Bennett ostensibly opposes Washington’s dictates on nullifying Jewish property rights, Defense Minister Benny Gantz is essentially toeing the administration’s line. After Yehuda Diamnetman was murdered last Thursday by Palestinian terrorists on his way to his yeshiva in Homesh in Samaria last week, Gantz didn’t order the destruction of the terrorists’ homes. He ordered the destruction of Diamnetman’s yeshiva.
This brings us to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. According to Gantz and Lapid, Iran’s achievement of independent military nuclear capabilities is imminent. Yet Bennett has no policy to deal with this state of affairs. Once a week the media report the IDF’s detailed operational plans for destroying Iran’s nuclear installations. Twice a week the media report that Israel lacks the capacity to attack Iran’s nuclear installations and needs America to take care of Iran for us.
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