Leadership failure traumatizes Israelis as virus surges

On the eve of the second lockdown, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is blaming everyone but himself for Israel's failure to cope with the pandemic.

Israeli border policemen talk to a shopkeeper while on patrol in Jerusalem’s main market during closure on September 25, 2020,

Ben Caspit writes in Al Monitor, September 25 2020:

Israel got the biggest and most destructive surprise in its history on Oct. 6, 1973. On the afternoon of Yom Kippur, as Jews were marking the holy day by fasting and praying to atone for their sins, the armies of Egypt and Syria launched a massive coordinated attack on Israeli troops in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. Thousands of tanks crossed the borders, setting off ear-piercing warning sirens throughout the country and signaling the start of the Yom Kippur War. The Israeli empire, which extended in those days from the shores of the Suez Canal in the south to the summit of Mount Hermon, a stone’s throw away from Damascus, in the north, found itself under existential threat.

The Israel Defense Forces, which just seven years earlier had speedily and easily defeated the Arab armies besieging the state’s narrow borders in the Six-Day War, was caught unaware as the enemy advanced. The Egyptian army crossed the Suez Canal, overrunning Israel’s fortifications, and inflicted heavy casualties on the Israeli troops. In the north, an armored Syrian force swept through the Golan Heights, threatening the Sea of Galilee and town of Tiberias below. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, the iconic symbol of Israel’s Six-Day War victory, darkly warned of the impending demise of the Third Temple — essentially, Israel’s annihilation.

The IDF, with the help of a US weapons airlift, eventually blocked the enemy advance, turned the tide and ended the war at an advantage — small consolation for the families of the 2,800 dead, tens of thousands wounded and hundreds taken prisoner or missing in action. Israeli arrogance and smugness over the 1967 victory were replaced by a sense of defeat and despair. The Yom Kippur debacle shook the foundations of the young state, resulted in the eventual downfall of the Mapai Party that had run it unchallenged for 25 years and left an entire generation deeply traumatized to this day.

As Jews prepare to observe Yom Kippur starting at sunset Sept. 27, the climate is reminiscent of those dark days. This time, the enemy is not an Arab nation, but rather the coronavirus pandemic.  As it was 47 years ago, Israel of 2020 is again the victim of a critical intelligence and operational failure and criminal negligence by an obtuse leadership oblivious to the impending disaster. With over 1,300 dead and the highest infection rate in the world, Israel has become the sick man of the Mediterranean. With infection rates on a relentless upward trajectory, Israel entered a near total lockdown on Friday, Sept. 25.

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