Opinion: Israel has been handling COVID-19 like a disease rather than a full-blown national crisis, wasting precious time in doing so and once more proving — when you get the questions wrong, the answers are also irrelevant

The public, the media and experts are all constantly dissecting and analyzing the coronavirus crisis.

Naturally, scandals and errors do end up eventually floating to the surface, and yet, pointing out these problems is not as paramount as addressing the root causes of the situation.

מחלקת קורונה בבית החולים ברזילי באשקלון
Barzilai Medical Center’s coronavirus ward (Photo: AP)


Well, there are three root causes, and none of them have anything to do with medicine, but rather with fundamental philosophical and political issues.

The first mistake is the narrative: Two years ago, the government realized there is a new virus in China that kills people. The virus is fast spreading and therefore is bound to reach Israel too.

Since the virus is a disease, and doctors treat diseases, the doctors were tasked with steering through the crisis early on. Herein lies the first mistake.

COVID-19 is not just another disease, it begot a full-blown national crisis and we can all agree that managing a disease is not the same as managing a national crisis.

תור ארוך במתחם בדיקות הקורונה של מד"א בהבימה
Long lines stretching out a coronavirus testing station in Tel Aviv (Photo: AFP)


As a result, the state failed to allocate resources quickly and efficiently enough throughout the first months of the pandemic. When you get the question wrong, the answer is also irrelevant.

The second root cause is the system, or rather, the lack thereof. Since the country’s inception, the Israeli leadership realized that we are likely to face national war-like crises.

To that end, it built a well-oiled system headed by the chief of the military. And while he is subordinate to the political echelon, he maintains great freedom of action, giving the military the flexibility required to deal with national crises.

Since the pandemic is also a national crisis, that gives rise to the question: who is the COVID chief?

בדיקות קורונה לילדים בירושלים
Drive-thru coronavirus testing clinic in Jerusalem (Photo: AFP)


The answer is simple — nobody. Israel doesn’t have a 24/7 control center that works under the government and is authorized to pass down its orders to the ministries, resolve disputes and draw up a comprehensive work plan for tomorrow.

In the absence of such a nerve center, every slightest issue ends up on the coronavirus cabinet’s table, and it doesn’t have the required knowledge nor patience and means to take on such a massive national crisis.

And that’s how the prime minister, current and previous, finds himself wasting his precious time on solving petty disputes. Even worse is that even if the premier makes the right decision, there is nobody under him that knows how to turn it into action.

The third and final root cause is the balance between individual rights and the greater good. Normally, there’s a certain equipoise between the need of the individual and the state. During a national crisis, we must (temporarily) move that point of equilibrium.

חיסון קורונה לילדים במודיעין
Child receives a COVID-19 shot in Modi’in (Photo: AFP)


Therefore, the state should have already imposed harsh sanctions on vaccine refusniks a year ago and banned all travel abroad. In practice, the state encourages people not to get vaccinated, and the price is known.

Striking the right balance between individual rights and the greater good has been at the heart of philosophical thought since the 17th century. And this, like in the other causes listed above, relates to philosophy and politics.

Whoever thinks that a debate during a burgeoning national crisis begins with the question “so what do we do”, does not understand how to run a country.

As reported by Ynetnews