As its ideas are adopted, Bennett’s Citizens’ Corona Cabinet may be more than a stunt

Bennett dismisses the idea that he’s in competition with the government’s corona cabinet. He says the opposite is the case.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Naftali Bennett of the Yemina party announced the formation of his “Citizens’ Coronavirus Cabinet” on July 1. Critics said it was a pretend cabinet trying to compete with the real thing, a bid for headlines. But in an interview with Makor Rishon on Friday, Bennett argues his Citizens’ Cabinet has made real contributions.

The Citizens’ Coronavirus Cabinet consists of experts from various fields, publishes forecasts and proposes solutions to deal with the pandemic, which is spreading rapidly in Israel.

Bennett dismisses the idea that he’s in competition with the government’s corona cabinet. He says the opposite is the case.

Bennett listed at least three proposals that his unofficial corona cabinet has made, which he claims the government has adopted, including: 1) reopening corona hotels 2) recruiting epidemiological testers, and; 3) evacuating sick from at least one corona hotspot.

“We turned a spotlight on the need to reopen the hotels, and following the pressure the government did it. We put forward the line about installing inspectors [using furloughed airport workers] to carry out epidemiological investigations [freeing up nurses] and the Health Ministry went for it. And a third example, we raised the need to move on [the neighborhood of] Beitar-Illit before the Sabbath and to evacuate 230 carriers, and the ministry carried it out,” Bennett told Makor Rishon.

Bennett, who served as defense minister in the last government but whose party has been left in the opposition this time around, has been a forceful critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis.

Bennett says corona testing is the key to controlling the virus and that according to the timetable in his plan, Israel could reach 100,000 tests a day. But he says Israel’s government failed to set up the testing system properly.

He says that Israel should have 3,000 to 4,000 epidemiological testers by now. Instead, there are 27 nurses and 100 students. “Every day that passes without us pushing back the virus is 100 businesses that go bankrupt and thousands of new unemployed workers,” he told the paper.

Bennett’s sharp criticism and his own corona cabinet have helped him in the polls. Early in July a Channel 12 poll showed his Yemina party winning 11 Knesset seats, the same number as the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz. The Likud dropped four seats to 37, showing that Bennett was pulling disaffected voters from the Right’s flagship party.

The website Globes says that the different styles between Bennett and Netanyahu favor the former in the current crisis. Bennett is open about his goals, publishing a comprehensive plan to deal with the pandemic and holding press conferences. Netanyahu tends to hold his cards close and turns to the security services for help in tracking the outbreak.

Though the government has stumbled in the first stages of the second wave, it appears to be regaining its footing, appointing a corona czar as it recognizes that the economic and health crisis is quickly becoming a threat to its political future.