It happened almost every day last week, just after 8 p.m., the most coveted primetime slot. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on TV to deliver a special statement about the coronavirus. Inevitably, the various channels aired his messages live during their evening news broadcasts. Each time he appeared on TV, Netanyahu announced a series of new decisions. These began with him canceling all events with over 5,000 people in attendance. Then came his announcement that he was canceling school and shutting down the country’s colleges and universities. Netanyahu also pleaded with people to maintain high standards of personal hygiene, use tissues, avoid handshakes and postpone visits to elderly relatives. He warned of a dramatic rise in the number of people who were infected, and of course, he used the opportunity to make all sorts of political statements.
As conventional wisdom in Israel would have it, the prime minister was managing the current crisis in the best possible way and had succeeded in steering the ship that is Israel to safer shores. This was even the view of the media and publicists, who, under normal circumstances, would not spare Netanyahu their criticism. “You can mock and hate as much as you want. Benjamin Netanyahu is 100% on point with the coronavirus crisis,” tweeted Ravit Hecht, a publicist for Haaretz newspaper, on March 11. Hecht was joined by Barak Ravid, a political commentator for Channel 13, who is known for his uncompromising criticism of Netanyahu, and by Ynet anchor and commentator Attila Somfalvi. It looks like most Israelis identify with this sentiment. Accordingly, all polls published for the weekend show a rise in support for Netanyahu as the person best suited to serve as prime minister. He now has 47% support, while the Blue and White party’s Benny Gantz has just 36%.