Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett Kobi Richter / TPS

Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett joined a chorus of politicians and health professions critiquing the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis today.

Bennett, whom many consider the go-to man for taking on the lead role in the battle against the virus, told Arutz Sheva how he would tackle the job if called on to do so.

"First, I would restore the public's trust and use four weeks to defeat the epidemic and begin rebuilding the economy. Then, I'd hire 2,500 health professionals to provide support for concerned individuals, run up to 100,000 epidemiological tests a week, establish additional 'Caronavirus hotels,' place virus patients there instead of treating them at home where they infect additional family members, take care of the hardest hit cities like Beitar Ilit, locate everyone virus carriers made contact with two weeks prior to diagnosis, and have them tested as well."

'Complete lack of leadership'

In a visit to Beitar Ilit yesterday, Bennett said the reason these measures weren't being implemented was not because the local municipality didn't support them, but because the Health Ministry wasn't interested, "so that 230 local virus patients will soon become 1,000, 5,000, and so forth."

"Only two weeks after I paid a visit to Beitar Ilit, and advised the Health Minister, NSC and Prime Minister to make some changes, did they realize patients should be evacuated from the city. If aggressive steps are taken in treating the virus, we won't need another lockdown." "But funding set aside for businesses affected by the virus has yet to be seen," he acknowledged.

Bennett was asked about the prime minister's claim that he was about to have aid money transferred, but was unable to do so because government officials got in the way. He said that while he wasn't aware of the exact details of what had taken place, as defense minister, he got things done instead of making empty promises. "In 72 hours, we were able to cut through all the red tape and get 'Caronavirus Hotels' up and running. There's no way they're not able to find a thousand researchers in four months. What are they so busy with? When I said we'd take care of 300,000 senior citizens, we got up and did it, when the IDF had to step in and help Bnei Brak residents, we got it done. It's all in the execution. Instead, they keep putting it off. Get over it. Appoint one individual to manage the process and move forward with it already."

"A minister needs to know how to manage government officials and not the other way around. I also had officials and legal advisers helping me, but I cut through all the red, drove out to the highest-hit locations, sat down with the IDF, came up with ways of fighting the outbreak with them, and overlooked the implementation. You have to lead—not guide, but execute," he stated.

Asked about the numerous economic recovery programs proposed but yet to be put into action, Bennett said: "You have to get things done. Not come up with plans, but execute and that's the part that's missing. Endless meetings are OK but only if things get done. The public is thirsty for actions—not empty promises."

Regarding Likud MK Hanegbi taking back his statement that no one was really going hungry, Bennett said: "Unfortunately, I've seen people in Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva, Afula and Tiberias unable to pay their rent. Some have already given up. I've never seen this kind of situation."

Maybe you would have been better off joining the coalition and getting things done from within?

Bennett said he had more influence in the opposition than most coalition ministers. "Time and again, when I press them on reopening 'Coronavirus Hotela,' evacuating people from Beitar Illit, pushing for more epidemiological testing, eventually it gets done." "I'll continue to do my part from the opposition," he stated.

Is Gantz correct in asserting that at the given moment the CV-19 crisis should be given top priority with sovereignty and other issues taking a back seat?

"I didn't say that 'If it's not the coronavirus, don't worry about it,' for nothing, but we can't miss out on sovereignty which is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The prime minister promised he'd do it, and we'll support him all the way once he does."