Israel and the entire world have had an exceedingly difficult year and it is not over yet. Unexpectedly, we are in a war facing up against an unknown invisible enemy. Everyone should be doing their best to reduce the damage that potentially could be ten times more severe than what we experienced during this horrific coronavirus pandemic. The confusion regarding what the guidelines should be was bound to occur given the reality that we are presently living due to the character of the war that we are forced to learn about and to respond to accordingly.
Despite the public feeling a sense of loss due to the reality that we are all living, and sometimes personal loss as well, Israel is a leading country in crisis management and Israel is one of the countries that succeeded in dealing with the pandemic wonderfully and systematically, step-by-step. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led this country to a place that not many in the world could reach.
If we are, however, disturbed by the economic damage and the closures, let us look at how a country not far from us conducted itself and compare its conduct with ours.
I am presently on week three of a visit to Dubai. Here, everything is open, all the businesses and all the restaurants. But in Dubai, they strictly adhere to social distancing, wearing masks and maintaining good hygiene.
During the beginning of the pandemic, the level of infection was high in Dubai, a senior level official in the United Arab Emirates told me. And then, very quickly, everyone in the United Arab Emirates formulated procedures and guidelines on how to respond to the pandemic. They set up barriers between the different emirates. Everyone coming and going must go through a rigorous inspection. So, this makes us ponder, how come Israel needed a third lockdown, while everything in the United Arab Emirates managed to stay open?
The difference between the United Arab Emirates and Israel is that in the Emirates, the citizens obey strict guidelines. They do not find ways around obeying the instructions and do not cut corners either, both the locals and the foreigners residing among them.
In the United Arab Emirates, violators are heavily punished. Public areas are also marked to make it easier for people to socially distance. Disinfection areas are spread out almost every hundred meters and stores limit the number of people who can enter at one time. Strict adherence to the guidelines helped the government to maintain each transitory phase, assisted businesses in minimizing the economic damage and residents were able to return to work gradually and efficiently, without weeping and without protesting. All means were utilized to thwart those who sabotaged the government’s efforts.
And now, let us compare the United Arab Emirates to the State of Israel. Here, the opposition claims that the closures and the guidelines are only designed to help the prime minister evade trial. Protests have continued throughout the year, as if there were no corona. Supposed coalition partners behaved like a fifth column, undermining the government’s efforts from within. On the daily basis, the media condemns the coronavirus guidelines, featuring businessmen crying about our reality. First there were a spate of articles and interviews denying corona was a pandemic, then endless ones with criticism of measures to control it and now a plethora of anti-vaccine articles.
In sum, the State of Israel is a democracy, where all the guidelines have been broken. We the citizens did not do our part in the struggle against the coronavirus and abandoned our prime minister as a lone fighter, who single handedly must unite everyone.
A few days ago, I heard Professor Gabi Barbash answer very correctly to the following question: How come Israel succeeded to be at the top of the world despite all the above? He responded that unlike in other countries, the Prime Minister took on the corona struggle as a personal project and managed it as a one-man show. This was the secret to Israel’s success, where the rest of the world failed. And even in the vaccine era, Israel surpasses everyone and it is in great part thanks to the Prime Minister’s determination.
Mendi Safadi, head of the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Human Rights and Public Relations, is a lecturer on Islamic affairs, terrorism, and the Middle East. Previously, he was chief of staff in the Office of the Deputy Minister for Development of the Negev and Galilee and Regional Cooperation, and served as a liaison between Israeli officials and the Syrian opposition.