SubscribeElizabeth BladeAll materialsThe Premier’s ratings have never been high, and recent polls revealed that the Israelis have been displeased with the way he handled the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the country’s security and economic situation. But now as he orders citizens to shed their masks, he risks losing even more support.Israelis have been waiting for this for a long time and from Saturday night the rules about wearing masks indoors were lifted, as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on his official Twitter page. “Starting Saturday – we are taking masks off! We went through another coronavirus wave. This time the corona came to me too, as to many others. But: we did not close the country, we did not stop ordinary life. There were no mass lay-offs. [We learnt to] live next to the plague,” he wrote.
Step in the Right Direction
This was a welcome step for some, and they rushed to send messages of support to Bennett for his decisions. “Well done for the responsible management of the virus and the state,” wrote one. “Congratulations! Without any panic, without closures, without intimidation. Responsible and professional considerations only…” tweeted another.
But others were less impressed. One user responded to Bennett’s tweet, writing: “No, you haven’t won any plague, you liar. You think people are stupid. 4,200 dead [registered] during your tenure alone! You are a dangerous man, making populist decisions at the expense of the lives of those in their 60s or older, it will not save you, you are a political corpse. Leave!” Another chimed in: “There is a conference next week, where they teach you to get back to reality. Recommended”. “I’m sorry sir… there is nothing you have done in the past year that can be said to have been successful. All you did was to display a disproportionate lack of leadership … some 5,000 people died from the coronavirus during your time. When you were given the country, there were zero patients and millions of vaccines ordered by your predecessor in office. Do not try to attribute to yourself the success of others. This is pathetic,” a user wrote. Social media has been inundated with comments slamming Bennett and his government. He has also fared badly in the polls: in January, for example, when Israel was going through the fifth wave of COVID-19, 63 percent of those surveyed thought he was mismanaging the health crisis. Only 4 percent said he was handling it “pretty well”. Will Israel Avert Sixth COVID-19 Wave as Passover Festivities Loom?Now, as the R value is seeming to rise, getting closer to the alarming score of one – indicating a potential sixth wave – lifting the mask rule might be premature which is why some on Twitter have accused the PM of playing politics at the expense of public health. “This is crazy, simply crazy. We’ve got thousands of new cases per day and you decide to remove masks. It is obvious to all that this decision is political, not professional. You are smelling elections, huh?” one user tweeted.
Bennett’s ratings have never been high but in the past months they have sunk to an unprecedented low. At the end of March, a poll conducted by Channel 12 found that 58 percent of Israelis were displeased with the way he has handled the terror wave that has been sweeping Israel. The same survey revealed that 66 percent saw Bennett’s tenure as an economic failure, and 44 percent said he was mismanaging the Iranian “threat”. Bennett might have thought that by lifting the mask rules he was gaining political capital. But with experts now warning that a sixth wave is just a matter of time, Bennett’s decision might get him into more trouble. Media surveys conducted by Israel’s main TV channels released two weeks ago showed that Bennett had barely managed to pass the threshold, gaining about six of the 120 seats in the Israeli parliament.