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

Moshe Maor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)84-105
Number of pages22
JournalIsrael Studies Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
For their fruitful suggestions, I am grateful to two anonymous referees and the editor of this journal. I also benefited from the comments of numerous others during presentation at the 2021 ECPR General Conference (Virtual Event). Responsibility for any errors in this work remains my own.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. Association for Israel Studies.


  • COVID-19
  • allegations
  • blame avoidance
  • crisis exploitation
  • disproportionate policy
  • political executives


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