Israel’s small business federation: Lockdown will bring anarchy

Small businesses, self-employed threaten to ignore pending national lockdown order.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The head of Israel’s small business federation said Wednesday that if the government imposes a national lockdown to stop the rocketing second wave of coronavirus infections, there will be “anarchy.”

The small business owners and independent operators threatened to keep their businesses open unless the government first comes up with a compensation package to prevent more businesses from going bankrupt.

“We are approaching anarchy. In the first wave we could barely hold our heads above water, in the second wave we drowned,” said Roee Cohen, president of the Israel Federation of Small Business Organizations.

“Another closure is a death sentence for businesses,” Cohen said, adding that the government has “long lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the public.”

Government officials have warned that a national lockdown is needed in order to control the second wave of infections, which last week drove the country into the the top spot with the world’s highest per capita infection rate.

Cohen’s organization says a general closure of the economy during the High Holy Day season, which starts September 18, would deliver a fatal blow to some 220,000 self-employed people who are still recovering from the closure restrictions of the first wave of infections last spring.

The cost of a general closure during the holidays is estimated at 13.6 billion shekels ($4 billion) for a period of three weeks and between 1 billion and 1.4 billion shekels ($410 million) per day during the holidays, the Globes business newspaper reported.

The damage to the wholesale and retail trade food and hospitality services industries is expected to be about 70% – a cost of 4.8 billion shekels ($1.4 billion) – and the damage to the arts, entertainment and leisure industry is expected to deepen to 90% and stand at 1.6 billion shekels ($470 million).

“The government had four months to get organized, and instead of preparing for the second wave that was clearly expected to come, they continued to engage in petty politics, throwing money out of the air for everyone instead of those who needed it,” Cohen complained.

“Before the lockdown, you will see us returning to the streets,” he warned.

The head of the Restaurant and Bar Owners Association, Shai Berman, warned that a new lockdown on the country would result in 2,000 businesses in the restaurant and bar industry being forced to close for good and another 20,000 workers joining Israel’s swollen unemployment figures.

“Once the restaurateurs have realized that the various [financial] compensation plans are a colossal failure, there is much doubt that they will be fulfilled after a closure is imposed, as opposed to the first closure in which we complied with the government’s instructions perfectly,” Berman said.