In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel has been praised on the world stage for its rapid implementation of a series of sweeping infection control practices. While many of the world’s borders still remain open as of March 23, Israel, as early as March 9, mandated a compulsory 14-day home quarantine for all overseas entrants. In the intervening weeks, restrictions have tightened to the point of a lock-down on all non-essential movement, a shutdown of all non-essential sectors of the economy, and heavy social distancing rules.
“We will witness an economic domino effect that will cascade into every household and family in the country
Initially criticized by some as an overreaction, hindsight has proven the wisdom of Israel’s rapid switch into crisis-mode. Countries like the USA, Spain, Italy and France, which were slower to act, are now facing thousands of additional cases and hundreds of additional deaths each day, with health systems close to being overrun. Israel, in the meantime, has thus far successfully offset the disease’s rapid onset, having as of writing sustained a single death, with 1,238 total cases.
Unfortunately, Israel’s impressive response time in terms of health practices, has not inspired rapid economic action in weathering the financial side of the crisis. While many nations around the world have been forthcoming in offering financial stimulus packages and other supports such as rent debt freezes and cash handouts, Israel’s leadership has offered nothing concrete, other than verbal reassurances tantamount to “It will be OK.” In fact, the successful infection control head-start Israel has gained thus far is likely to evaporate into thin air if the nation continues to ignore the economic side of the crisis. This is because of a simple truth: unless citizens’ financial security is guaranteed by the government, thousands of Israelis – when their money runs out – will soon start breaking the quarantine and distancing rules out of pure desperation.
Hygiene is important to prevent the spread of the virus, but it is impossible to escape an economic crisis by washing your hands
The government was formally called to account for this egregious oversight today (Monday), as Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a letter calling on the premier to take economic leadership and calm the economy. "It's time to raise funds and release the bailouts for businesses," Bar-David wrote.
Chairman of the Histadrut noted: "Compared to the world, the State of Israel manages to precede everyone on several health issues, but is falling far behind in terms of the economic crisis." The Histadrut also warns that without changing the economic approach to the issue: “We will witness an economic domino effect that will cascade into every household and family in the country. The resources the state is trying to save at the expense of distressed businesses, will inevitably have to be spent in paying for the unemployed and rehabilitating an economy in a recession.”
In his letter, Bar-David scrutinized the government’s policy saying that "the State of Israel remains the only state in the Western world that refuses to inject money into the economy to secure its future." The chairman of the Histadrut demands that “any business that has been hit by 50 percent or more in its revenue, compared to the same period last year, must receive money without delay to survive.”
"Hundreds of thousands of workers have been sent home on unpaid leave, and without an immediate cash injection into the business sector, they will have no jobs to return to," the Histadrut chairman wrote. "Hygiene is important to prevent the spread of the virus, but it is impossible to escape an economic crisis by washing your hands."