Sowing Fear Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak, Netanyahu Is in His Element

With a flimsy tissue, video images of an inflamed nose dispersing microscopic nasal discharge and an apocalyptic tone of voice, Benjamin Netanyahu is squeezing every ounce of political and propaganda benefit out of the coronavirus at a time of uncertainty and anxiety about the future. This is his big moment. He is managing matters with a confident hand while everyone else is consumed with petty politics and talking with “supporters of terror.”

Nearly every evening the prime minister holds a joint press conference with the health minister and his director general, as well as the head of the National Security Council. Bibi’s messages are artfully

crafted: sowing fear that stops a centimeter short of fueling panic; presenting draconian measures that reflect his responsibility and concern for the health of his subjects; and highlighting his international standing (“I spoke with my friend, Indian President Narendra Modi”) and proven success in managing Israel’s economy (“Our economy is going into this crisis in good shape, in very good shape”).

In his naked desire to hog as much screen time as possible, he goes into lots of technical detail and instructions that should be delivered to the public by Health Ministry and Magen David Adom officials: not to gather in large crowds, to keep a distance from other people, not to hug, not to kiss. He musters his finest thespian talent when he announces, practically gasping: “It’s happening! It’s spreading!” And then he takes a dramatic pause, clears his throat, looks straight into the camera and portentously utters the following inconsequential piece of information that already known to any 9-year-old: “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

Netanyahu demonstrates how to use a tissue when coughing, during a press conference on March 11, 2020.Ohad Zwigenberg

Netanyahu is having the time of his life from the podium in the Prime Minister’s Office, while his wicked son Yair rejoices on Twitter as tens of thousands of business owners and salaried workers are about to lose their livelihoods. They are quite the dastardly duo, those two.

Let’s take a moment to compare our prime minister to German Chancellor Angela Merkel: On Wednesday she straightforwardly informed her public that the infection rate in the country could go as high as 60-70 percent. “Take care of the elderly,” she requested in a cool and calm tone, sans visual shticks and horror-movie mannerisms.

The current accursed plague could offer Netanyahu other benefits: For example, if the Jerusalem District Court – which rejected his request to postpone the start of his trial – instructs him to appear in court on Tuesday morning for the reading of the indictment, Mr. Twitter and his friends in the social media will likely launch a campaign against the “leftist” judges (to use the defendant’s term) who “are preventing the prime minister from managing the coronavirus crisis.”