Netanyahu Addresses Nation as Lockdown, Elections Loom

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ had good news and bad news for the nation in a broadcast address on Tuesday evening.

The good news: Israel could be among the first countries to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

Netanyahu said that he had talked with the CEOs of several pharmaceutical companies about the vaccines since yesterday, and that “Israel could be among the first countries to emerge from the crisis.”

As for the bad news: “We are seeing a very sharp increase in morbidity in Israel.” According to media reports earlier in the day, the coronavirus cabinet will likely vote for another nationwide lockdown when it meets on Wednesday, acknowledging that partial restrictions have not been sufficient to contain the virus.

Politically, the prime minister also had good news and bad news.

First, the bad: Israel will be going to elections for the fourth time in two years, after the deadline for a 2021 state budget expires at midnight, leaving the country with an interim government until March 23, the probable time for voting.

The good news—for Netanyahu supporters: Likud will win.

“The Likud did not want elections, we voted against them time and time again. Unfortunately, Ganz withdrew from the agreements between us and this decision drags Israel to the elections. It happened due to an internal struggle in his party,” he claimed.

“Likud will bring “a huge win,” he predicted. “Most Israelis recognize our leadership and huge achievements,” he said, citing the success in securing vaccines for Israel, recent normalization deals with Arab countries and a strong economy which has weathered the pandemic better than some had expected.

He claims that “the decision in these elections are clear: either a government dependent on [opposition leader Yair] Lapid and the left or a true right-wing government.”

Shortly after Netanyahu spoke, the Blue and White party responded:

“A man accused of criminality, with three indictments, is dragging the country to four election campaigns,” it said in a statement.

“If there were not a trial, there would be a budget and there would not be elections.”