The dictatorship of the peas
The power of the alliance between Netanyahu and the religious extremists is an invitation to a dramatic change.
After the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that he never could have imagined where the cycle of rabbinical incitement, combined with a sense of political endorsement and rabble-rousing, would lead. It would seem, however, that Netanyahu took from this a diametrically opposite lesson.
The inciting rabbis continue to receive tens of thousands of shekels a month from the Israeli government. The prime minister himself makes inflammatory remarks against "the foreigners." And the sense of support from the politicians is reinforced by the introduction of a series of racist bills whose apex is the "discrimination committee law," which threatens to turn a rabbinical edict into a state law that will promote "Jews-only" areas.
The "dictatorship of the peas," according to the organizational consultant Tal Gutfeld, is an organizational culture in which scattering peas on the ground leads the public and media to run around after a single pea each time, while forgetting the overall context of the situation.
A similar method is at play in every cycle of racism. The theme is sometimes "the Arabs," sometimes "foreigners from Africa" and sometimes "disloyal citizens." This is precisely the role played by "the Jews," "the Communists," "the homosexuals" and "the Gypsies." In effect, these are interchangeable objects for the mass conflict and the convenience of the regime. The real subject is the racist, antidemocratic incitement.
It is no accident that the organizers behind the demonstrations in Bat Yam, Tel Aviv's Hatikva quarter and at Kikar Zion in Jerusalem were identical.
The thousands that returned to this public square - as their state-funded rabbis dare to promise "civil war" from on high - shed light on the wider context. The state budget and the so-called Economic Arrangements Bill that supplements it illuminate that context fully. Likud came to power in 1977 on the wings of the "second Israel" upset. After 33 years of Likud dominance - with brief breaks, mainly under Rabin's murdered government - there are no longer two Israels. Now there are three.
The first Israel is the Israel of the big bucks. Wealth, connections and elite entities such as the Israel Air Force going to town on an unlimited budget. The second Israel, adjacent to the first, is the Israel of the yeshivas and the settlements. More than one million people live there, beyond the borders of the state and of the need to work. Most of the billions spread around there are not only for idleness but also for "educational work," in which the state-supported teach the majority of the country's first-graders, who are defined as Jews, in the spirit of Safed's municipal rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu.
And the third Israel? Nothing is left for it.
Most Israelis live in the third Israel. That's where the tapped-out firefighting services are, and the penniless nonreligious school system. That's where you'll find the moaning state prosecutors, the derelict health services, the burned-out social workers. In that distant land a third of the workers bring home less than NIS 3,850 a month. What a life.
The power of the alliance between Netanyahu and the religious extremists is an invitation to a dramatic change. But anyone who lifts their eyes from the peas scattered on the floor will see that a forest greater than Birnam Wood can move.
The year 1948 was not only when "Big Brother" was created as a horror scenario but also the year a state was born. With the right leadership, the majority of the public that still wants democracy, a normal life and a declaration of independence, could turn away from the screens of the Big Brother and recognize that it deserves more. There is no reason for citizens of Israel, a wealthy country, to settle for mutual hatred and for peas. The majority could rise up against Dunsinane, the castle of the ruler whose hands will ne'er be clean.
There are many who cannot see from within the fire, but this could be the last budget to leave the majority of Israelis outside the castle of a decent life.