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Israel's chief is starting to pay a "political worth" as virus circumstances enhance and protests escape

A protester waves an Israeli flag while police use water cannons in clashes during a demonstration against the Israeli Prime Minister outside his official residence in Jerusalem on July 14, 2020.

Menahem Kahana | AFP | Getty Images

The Israeli government made "very serious mistakes" after containing the coronavirus outbreak and caused "enormous damage" to the economy, a political analyst told CNBC as cases continue to grow rapidly in the country.

Just a few weeks after the restrictions were largely lifted at the end of May, new infections prompted the authorities to reintroduce measures such as the closure of gyms, clubs and event halls. Certain parts of the country have also been designated as "restricted areas" where business will be limited.

"It is difficult to conclude that (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) … is distracted," said Joel Rosenberg, an Israeli-American political analyst and author.

""Instead of focusing on addressing the public health situation and reopening the economy, Netanyahu … was planning to annex large parts of the West Bank, "he told CNBC over the weekend.

"As a result, the pandemic is worsening again, causing enormous damage to the economy and the millions of Israelis who are unemployed and struggling to make ends meet," said Rosenberg.

Daily cases fell to single digits after Israel took action in March, closed borders, and tightened measures that restricted movement and gatherings. After some success in coping with the health crisis, activity resumed, but cases increased again and hit new daily highs this month.

Israel reported 42,360 confirmed cases and 371 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Local media reports say thousands of protesters came out to protest the government's economic response to the coronavirus crisis. Unemployment in the country rose to 21% and economic aid was slow, Reuters reported.

Benny Gantz, the country's deputy prime minister, made a statement on Sunday acknowledging the anger of the demonstrators.

"The citizens who take to the streets tonight to express their real and justified need have the right to do so – and we as your government have a responsibility to listen and work towards actionable solutions," he said.

Gantz added that he had told Netanyahu that "his party would not only support the emergency program," but "would insist on a much broader policy to support future growth."

"A solution for just three months will not be enough," he said.

Gantz, a member of the Israeli blue-and-white party, formed a unified government with Netanyahu in March, ending the political standstill that triggered three elections in less than a year. The agreement provides for Gantz to become prime minister after 18 months.

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Experts said Israel's rush to reopen the economy could have led to an increase in some cases.

"Israel has been unusual in rapidly changing its policies without properly assessing the impact of easing restrictions. A clear example is allowing social events such as mass weddings," said Professor Hagai Levine, epidemiologist at Hadassah University of Hebrew.

Siegal Sadetzki, the country's director of public health, resigned last week and said Israel had "lost track of the pandemic," a Reuters translation of her Facebook statement in Hebrew. "Successes in dealing with the first wave (of infections) have been wiped out by the wide and rapid opening of the economy," she wrote, which surpassed many other countries.

Netanyahu starts paying a political price for not keeping an eye on the ball.

Joel Rosenberg

Political analyst

Levine told CNBC that public health services had not been strengthened and that the ability to conduct "timely epidemiological investigations" and take appropriate action was "compromised".

However, he also admitted that Israel increased its laboratory testing capacity and changed its definition to include testing asymptomatic contacts. That said, the situation was "bad, but not as bad as it seems," based on the daily diagnosed cases, he said.

Levine said it appears that confidence in the government has waned, and leaders need to do this through transparent, open discussion with the public and "through professionalism and greater weight for public health experts and epidemiologists" instead of " recover ". Military generals or physicists. "

Political scientist Rosenberg said he had "no doubt" that the government could curb the pandemic and "successfully restart the economy, including the tourism sector." However, leadership must remain "fully focused".

"There is simply no time to think about annexation, at least until this health and economic crisis is completely behind us," he said.

"Netanyahu is starting to pay a political price for not keeping an eye on the ball," he added. "His polls have dropped significantly in the past few weeks for one simple reason – the Israelis are angry at his abuse of the corona crisis. He can totally turn things around, but let's face it, this is the most serious decline in Netanyahu's approval ratings that we have have seen for quite some time. "

– CNBC's Natasha Turak contributed to this report.

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