Urgent Tasks for Israel’s New Government: Second Coronavirus Wave Is Only the Beginning

After almost a year and half of caretaker government, 33 new ministers came on board on Tuesday. Not all arrived with plans in hand. Most only learned which ministry they’ll be leading a few days ago.

But all have their work cut out for them just reviving their institutions: the ministries have been effectively paralyzed since the dissolution of the 20th Knesset (which led to three fruitless elections, culminating in today's unity government). They couldn't make new appointments. They couldn't get funding for new projects.

It's a new day today, but the rigid coalition agreements are likely to constrain the freshly minted ministers and prevent them from forging ahead with appointments, legislation or an agenda that would peeve their peers in the rest of the government.

Yet some ministers who fielded jeers because of lame-duck portfolios cobbled together just to gratify them do mean to make important decisions in the coming days, if only in the hope that they’ll finally make headlines for doing something.

At the Health Ministry: The coronavirus is still here

Brand-new Health Minister Yuli Edelstein will find his desk awash with tasks, but the coronavirus remains the most urgent. As he takes charge, the first wave of the virus seems to be ebbing, but the ramifications of the pandemic are still with us. His first mission is to take advantage of the hiatus in the virus’ spread in Israel to form a committee of experts to study the lessons learned from the crisis and make urgent recommendations, say within two weeks, how to prepare for what comes next: how to disseminate information better; tapping experts who had been sidelined; treating the sick — the virus didn’t evaporate overnight; make procurement plans; and factoring in the flu with the fight against the coronavirus this coming winter. (Ido Efrati)

At the Foreign Ministry: Reempowering the minister

Back when diplomacy still had international allure, the Foreign Ministry was considered a cherry. Now the best advice for the incoming foreign minister is to restore his status, which under Netanyahu bottomed out. The prime minister redistributed the ministry’s roles and cut funding. Morale sank low.

Incoming Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi will first and foremost have to spell out to the international community and the ministry staff that he isn’t there to stay in Netanyahu’s shadow. In recent years Netanyahu has taken over the role of foreign minister, both formally and informally, especially when it came to ties with the United States. Ashkenazi’s meeting last week with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who didn’t bother meeting with Ashkenazi’s predecessor Yisrael Katz, was a good start in that sense.