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Blame Avoidance, Crisis Exploitation, and COVID-19 Governance Response in Israel

Moshe Maor

Abstract

Surprisingly, although the Israeli government adopted unregulated, unorganized, inefficient, uncoordinated, and uninformed governance arrangements during the first wave of COVID-19, the public health outcome was successful, a paradox that this theoretically informed article seeks to explain. Drawing on insights from blame avoidance literature, it develops and applies an analytical framework that focuses on how allegations of policy underreaction in times of crisis pose a threat to elected executives’ reputations and how these politicians can derive opportunities for crisis exploitation from governance choices, especially at politically sensitive junctures. Based on a historical-institutional analysis combined with elite interviews, it finds that the implementation of one of the most aggressive policy alternatives on the policy menu at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis (i.e., a shutdown of society and the economy), and the subsequent consistent adoption of the aforementioned governance arrangements constituted a politically well-calibrated and effective short-term strategy for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

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Roundtable: The COVID-19 Pandemic in Israel

Joel S. Migdal, Anat Ben-David, Uriel Abulof, Shirley Le Penne, Tomer Persico, Nohad ‘Ali, Tsafi Sebba-Elran, Maya Rosenfeld, Nissim Cohen, Eran Vigoda-Gadot, Shlomo Mizrahi, Meital Pinto, Hagar Salamon, and Diego Rotman

As in other countries, COVID-19 hit Israel like a bolt of lightning—unexpected, sudden, and powerful. And, like others, Israel was woefully unprepared for what would follow. The first cases came to light in the last week of February 2020, and by March and April the country was in full-scale crisis mode. In the end, almost one in ten people came down with the virus and more than 8,000 died, more than in any war that Israel has fought.

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“If the coronavirus doesn’t kill us, hunger will”

Regional absenteeism and the Wayuu permanent humanitarian crisis

Claudia Puerta Silva, Esteban Torres Muriel, Roberto Carlos Amaya Epiayú, Alicia Dorado González, Fatima Epieyú, Estefanía Frías Epinayú, Álvaro Ipuana Guariyü, Miguel Ramírez Boscán, and Jakeline Romero Epiayú

For more than 30 years after the arrival of the first multinational coal company in La Guajira, the Wayuu have raised their voices. They denounce the extermination of their people, the dispossession of their territory and their resources, and the negligence of the Colombian and Venezuelan states in facing a humanitarian crisis caused by hunger and the death of more than 4,000 children. The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic within this context.

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Coronavirus with “Nobody in Charge”

An open reflection on leadership, solidarity, and contemporary regional integration

Harlan Koff and Carmen Maganda