Israel's social protest needs to be a little less polite
If the summer ends with this autumnal committee, if Stav Shaffir and Daphni Leef make do with this bunch of dry bones that was thrown at them yesterday, we have had one summer of transient, forgettable happiness.
Amnon Zur did not show up at the Van Leer Institute yesterday; he remained at the encampment in Jerusalem's Independence Park. Moshe Dabush remained in Holon's Jesse Cohen neighborhood, and Maurice Ohana stayed in Beit She'an. If these three eloquent, angry men bothered to listen to the statements made at the press conference by the "committee for socioeconomic change" last night, they were surely bitterly disappointed.
If the summer protest was serious, it could (and must ) become much less polite now. One summer of passionate shouting, lively demonstrations and bustling encampments ended mutely yesterday, with the silence of the well-meaning professor Manuel Trajtenberg. He expertly described the economy's ills, like a polished doctor, and immediately provided tranquilizers and anesthetics, like a witch doctor.
Trajtenberg's lofty aspirations remained exactly that. His recommendations will not make a real difference. In view of the stocks into which he was placed, Trajtenberg should have resigned a long time ago.
And the rest was history, Trajtenberg waxed lyrical. But it is doubtful there will be anything left for the history books. If the summer ends with this autumnal committee, if Stav Shaffir and Daphni Leef make do with this bunch of dry bones that was thrown at them yesterday, we have had one summer of transient, forgettable happiness.
Trajtenberg had good news and bad news for the protest yesterday - just like the Russian general from the joke who announced that his soldiers will finally get a change of underwear, by exchanging their underwear with each other.
So if the quiet that prevailed in the past few weeks endures, it's the end of the summer. If on Saturday night we don't meet in the streets again, everything was for nothing.
Zur, Ohana and Davush, who have no choice, were not the only ones to find no remedy for their socioeconomic sores yesterday. The life of the "mainstream" protesters from Rothschild Boulevard will also not change in any substantial way. They demanded social justice and did not get it. Free education from the age of three and reduced gas prices by a few agorot are nice, but they are not social change.
Keeping the budget within its limits, including the biannual budget and the Economic Arrangements Law, is not merely an anti-democratic decision; it made it impossible for the committee to make a change. Leaving the defense and settlements' budgets as before also strangles any chance for change. Add to this the defense establishment's threats and claims that we're in a state of war, and you have the same wolf without the sheep's clothing. A Putinesque democracy, promising change under the same ruler until 2024.
There is only one lesson to be learned from last night's conference: The protest ended too soon.
The original sinner is student leader Itzik Shmuli, who hastened to cooperate with the committee, strangling the protest he himself had generated. Shmuli will one day become another retired institutionalized student leader, like Tzachi Hanegbi, Yisrael Katz or Gilad Erdan, his predecessors.
The burden now lies on Leef and Shaffir, last summer's heroines; but will soon be picked up by Zur and his colleagues as well. They really have nothing to lose but their tents. If they and tens of thousand of people like them take to the streets, with the support of hundreds of thousands of mainstream protesters, the next winter or summer will be very different from the intoxicating summer of 2011. Good morning, hangover.