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FRIDAY FEATURE – The Best and Worst of Times

Friday Feature

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Posted on: 
28 Feb 2020
FRIDAY FEATURE – The Best and Worst of Times
As Israelis prepare to celebrate Shabbat this Friday afternoon, they have a great deal to be grateful for and a few things to be very anxious about. On one hand, the countdown has begun to Purim and Passover, two of the most beloved holidays on the national calendar. On the other hand, earlier in the week, there was a reminder that the terrorist groups which rule the Gaza Strip can, whenever they wish and/or whenever their Iranian masters order them to, send a barrage of rockets and other implements of terror against the Israeli communities of southern Israel. The near-weekly reports of “unidentified” aircraft which strike Iranian targets in Syria also remind them that the threat from the north is ever-present. The announcement this week that the COVID-19 coronavirus has spread to the Jewish State has given rise to widespread distress (before the potential for massive economic pain has even begun to manifest itself) and last but certainly not least, there are Knesset elections, the third in less than a year, for Israelis to look forward to on Monday.

The home stretch if the election campaign in recent weeks reminded many of the “Rocky” movies, with the leaders of the two major Left and Right factions exhausted and barely able to remain standing, but neither willing to admit defeat. However, some major, late-breaking news came on Friday morning when reports surfaced that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz had fired the leading strategist for his campaign, Israel Bachar, after a recording of a private conversation he had had with a friend, in which he had harshly criticized his client as, among other things being a danger to the country because he lacked the courage to attack Iran if necessary, was broadcast by Channel 12’s evening news program the day before.

Another conversation in which Blue and White MK Omer Yankelevich also surfaced in which she allegedly called Gantz "weak and stupid." However, she issued a strong denial of having ever said those words and Gantz announced that he accepted her denial and would keep her on the Blue and White list for Monday’s election.

Furthermore, Gantz issued a statement announcing that he was firing Bachar, adding however that he had been set up by “cheap” and “unacceptable” political trickery and that the culprits in the plot would soon be revealed. However, most analysts agreed that the recordings would probably do considerable damage to Blue and White in terms of voter support in Monday’s election.

“We’ve just seen that Gantz’s own people don’t have much confidence in him,” said one Jerusalem-based political analyst. “Many voters who were on the fence will see that and it will cause them, quite reasonably, to ask themselves if they should have confidence in him themselves. The rocket barrage from Gaza earlier this week and other regional issues, not to mention this coronavirus threat which has suddenly appeared in our midst, makes it a very serious question that can’t be easily brushed aside. Even many people who voted for Blue and White in the last two elections because they thought it’s time for a change might not be ready to take Netanyahu’s proven hand off the wheel at a time like this.”

Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party issued a statement that "Gantz fired his closest advisor for telling the truth. Gantz will be a dangerous prime minister to Israel, we must not gamble our security and let Gantz form a dangerous government with Ahmed Tibi, someone he tried to form a government within the last elections."

Meanwhile, the growing coronavirus epidemic has already caused ripples in Israel’s economy, despite only a small handful of confirmed cases in the Jewish State. Israel’s national flag air carrier, El Al, has suspended flights to several countries in Europe and the Far East where large outbreaks have been reported and has issued a report to stockholders in the company saying it estimates that it will lose between $50 and $70 million in the first quarter of 2020. Hotel’s, restaurants and other parts of the tourism industry are also expecting to absorb losses. Government ministers and industry leaders warn that many jobs could be lost in the coming months as the economic effects of the coronavirus epidemic continue to ripple through the global economy.

All of these issues and more will be filling the hearts and minds of Israelis as they prepare for Shabbat this Friday evening, with an eye towards the upcoming holidays. It truly is the best and worst of times for Israelis and their friends around the world, amidst an ever-growing list of issues to pray about. 

Here is a podcast giving some analysis of the COVID-19 problem and a video showing how Israel is helping to confront it



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