MK Naftali Bennett
MK Naftali BennettArutz Sheva

Former Defense Minister and head of the Yamina party MK Naftali Bennett has reiterated his oft-expressed criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, warning that its “sledgehammer” approach of applying nationwide lockdowns is having disastrous consequences – with no end in sight.

“The entire approach is wrong,” he told Arutz Sheva. “What does the government do? It applies the ‘sledgehammer’ of lockdown, and then infection rates drop – and the damage inflicted is massive. Then, it removes the lockdown, and infection rates rise again and once again, we’re headed for lockdown. And they don’t seem to know of any other way of managing this crisis.”

According to Bennett, “We need to develop a more focused management style, using differential measures, based on the various communities across the country and not locking down the whole country at once. However, I just don’t see this government ever getting to grips with the virus,” he added. “The only countries that have succeeded in getting it under control are those where their focus was on Covid-19 literally 24/7. That’s not what it’s like here – politicians are absorbed in politicking, above all. Instead, they should be treating this like a war and focusing on nothing else.

“If I were Prime Minister,” he continued, “I would be totally focused on the details, day and night. When I was Defense Minister, I focused on my role to the exclusion of everything else. In other countries, governments seem to understand that if they don’t manage the coronavirus crisis correctly, they may as well shut up shop. Here, by contrast, the government is busy with a million and one other things – anything except for governing.”

Giving an example of something concrete he feels the government could be doing already, Bennett described how “for the last six months, I have been putting pressure on the government to implement a different sort of testing system, one that can test huge numbers of people on a regular basis, by testing batches rather than individuals, and only if the batch shows positivity are individual samples analyzed. If we did things that way, we could test schoolchildren on a regular basis,” he asserted, without explaining how this method would avoid the known factor of false positives and lead to entire schools – or communities – being locked down due to a few incorrect test results.

He also criticized the government for “to this day, failing to test all arrivals at Ben Gurion airport. Why isn’t it happening? It takes the government months to make up its mind on anything, and meanwhile, businesses are collapsing. This is not the way to manage a crisis.”

If things continue in this way, he accused, “we’re going to find ourselves in a ‘chronic’ state of lockdown. After all, we’re still in partial lockdown even now. Students are missing months of schooling and the entire country has gone into a form of hysteria, with public officials warning that an ‘even harsher’ lockdown is on the horizon.

According to Bennett’s assessment, the only solution is to dismantle the government and give a different administration the chance to do things better. “Until around a month ago, I was of the opinion that it would not be right to head to elections during an epidemic. But I have come to realize that if we don’t hold elections soon, we’re going to be in election mode for the next two to three years. With the prospect of elections at the backs of their minds, politicians think of nothing but politics. Why haven’t we passed a budget? Because of political considerations. And of course, it’s not possible to manage a crisis of this nature without a budget in place. Taking everything into consideration, I just don’t see how this government can get us out of this mess.” And he stressed that his party will support any genuine proposal for dismantling the government.

Asked to comment on the results of the U.S. presidential election, Bennett expressed cautious optimism at the prospect of working together with a Biden administration, stressing that past governments have managed to work well with presidents from both sides of the political divide. “Joe Biden is a friend of Israel,” he said. “I have no doubt that we will work together effectively.

“First and foremost, however,” he added, “we have to recognize our debt of gratitude to President Trump. He was the one who cancelled the nuclear agreement with Iran, who transferred the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and recognized the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.”