“When it comes to Covid-19, it seems where Israel leads, the rest of the world follows.” That was how a recent CNN report began. It’s a sentiment that’s been echoed across the international mainstream media, for instance when Germany’s Der Spiegel wrote that Israel is “one step ahead of the rest of the rest of us.”
Israel’s present and previous leaderships have prided themselves on being “first” in many regards amidst the ongoing pandemic. Israel was the first to acquire enough vaccine doses for its entire population, the first to roll out those vaccines to the general public, the first to approve a booster shot, and the first to inoculate teens and later young children.
So when the Omicron variant began to rage across the globe, it came as little surprise that world leaders were lining up to chat with Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett after he was the first to declare a state of emergency and close the country’s borders.
They wanted to know what Israel knew that they didn’t yet, and to adapt the Jewish state’s policies to their own populations.
“We raised the red flags, and everyone came to ask what it was all about,” an Israeli diplomatic source told the N12 news portal.
While Israel is taking COVID-19 with deadly seriousness, it is also fully aware of the diplomatic opportunity and benefit here. The world is looking to Israel not only as an example, as a test case, but for leadership and direction. According to that same N12 report, Bennett is having almost daily chats with both UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, among other world leaders. In fact, Bennett and Johnson reportedly gab with one another on WhatsApp at all hours of the day.
And while such conversations in the past were more infrequent and focused on more tense topics like the Israel-Palestinian conflict, today they are commonplace and friendly, centered on finding solutions to help us all.
“When you spend the entirety of a half-hour phone call discussing COVID, there’s little time for other more ‘annoying’ topics,” the diplomatic source noted, adding that the coronavirus “is a tremendous tool for those working in foreign relations as a means of improving Israel’s image, and, of course, offering what we have to offer the world. It’s not for nothing that ambassadors and world leaders are asking to speak with our leaders. We have a lot of knowledge to share in order to help save lives and economies.”