Twins No More, Trump and Netanyahu Part Ways on Handling Coronavirus Crisis

>> Israel coronavirus updates: 127 cases, schools and universities shuttered, 2,500 medical staff quarantined

Alon Mizrahi was a flamboyant Israeli football striker known for his stellar performances on the field in the 1990s as well as his flaky statements in between. Of the latter, Mizrahi’s most fondly-remembered inanity came in response to a reporter’s question about his ambitions to play abroad: “I’d like to play in Europe or in Spain,” he said.

Mizrahi’s novel geography was the first thing that came to mind after hearing President Donald Trump declare a travel ban on a Europe that does not include the United Kingdom, Ireland and Eastern European countries that are not part of the open-border Schengen area. The UK’s exclusion was doubly bizarre given its relatively high rate of coronavirus cases, the sixth highest in what is otherwise known as Europe. It’s probably because he has golf clubs there, cynics concluded.

Trump’s Mizrahi-style atlas, however, was but a minor hiccough in a presidential speech that was supposed to calm an increasingly anxious America, which probably achieved the opposite. U.S. administration officials spent the ensuing 24 hours trying to clean up the mess.

Trump said the ban would include trade and cargo, but it actually doesn’t. He said the travel ban would be complete, when it isn’t. He insisted insurers had agreed to waive copays for coronavirus treatment, but they actually hadn’t. He totally ignored the main challenge currently facing U.S. medical providers – the lack of sufficient testing. He portrayed the disease as an economic challenge rather than a potential human catastrophe. And he intimated that the coronavirus was “foreign," as if its source made any difference whatsoever.

After three years of finding disturbing parallels between Trump and his ally, Benjamin Netanyahu, the coronavirus crisis has cast them as diametric opposites. Trump downplayed the virus as a trifle, if not a Democratic “hoax," while Netanyahu was hands-on from the outset and, according to some experts, overly-alarmist. Trump was reluctant to take measures that could hurt the economy; Netanyahu quarantined Israel and shut it out from the outside world, economic circumstances be damned.

Trump’s handling of the crisis has undermined public confidence in his presidency and is seen as a potentially major obstacle on his way to reelection; Netanyahu has scored rave reviews even among major critics for his forthrightness and resoluteness: The coronavirus may yet save his moribund political career.