Israel's revolution must not become a missed opportunity
The power of the concept 'the nation' lies in the fact that it can be read both from the left and the right.
Three concepts burst from the belly of the earth in the summer of 2011: nation, state and social justice.
The power of the concept "the nation" lies in the fact that it can be read both from the left and the right. From the left, it's the storming of the Bastille, the red revolution, the organization of the working class. The nation is the rebellion of the oppressed against tyrants and dictators. From the right, the nation is the Jewish nation. The nation is the coming into being of a national entity.
That's why what happened here in the past month is unprecedented. Suddenly Israelis arose in the morning and felt they were a nation and began to walk. Suddenly a political power appeared that is not a party, ethnic group or sector. No longer a cold, sterile and socio-academic Israeli society, but a warm, concrete and smart Israeli nation. A nation that is broad, focused and potent. A nation that is both all of Israel and every individual in Israel. A nation that is all the Israelis, who are embarking on a battle against their exploiters.
The power of the concept "the state" lies in the fact that it offers a new state. Not a state from the top down, but a state from the bottom up. Not a state of foreign policy, defense and bureaucracy, but a state of citizens and human beings. Not a Jewish state against Palestinians, Arabs and gentiles, but an Israeli state against oligarchs, robber barons and centralized tycoons.
The demand for a welfare state now is only part of the story. The heart of the matter is the profound yearning for an ethical state that will restrain the market, block exploitation and reduce injustice. A just and insightful state that will express the desires of the Israeli community and organize Israeli life fairly. A state that will no longer serve selected minorities, but all Israelis. The people's state.
The beauty of the concept "social justice" lies in the fact that it is totally retro. There's nothing more fifties than social justice. There's nothing more Hashomer Hatzair than social justice. But suddenly, via Facebook, the fifties are making a comeback, the spirit of Hashomer Hatzair is making a comeback. And the battle cry of the comeback is not an advertising slogan, but the heartfelt cry of a nation that is demanding the most basic thing: justice. Justice, not charity. Justice for the individual and justice for society. Jewish justice, Israeli justice, universal justice. Social justice.
The 300,000 who demonstrated Saturday night have dispersed. Maybe they'll return another Saturday night, maybe not. But the three concepts of the 300,000 won't be erased. They have been engraved. Even before a political or economic revolution has taken place here, these three concepts have brought about a conceptual revolution. A revolution that says we will no longer allow reckless capitalism to tyrannize us via reckless privatization. We will no longer allow the unrestricted connections between big business and government. We will not accept Darwinist social gaps. The nations demand the reestablishment of a state that will guarantee social justice.
The achievement is a rare one; it's greater than the left, the right, the government and the protest leaders. It must not be abused, it must not become a missed opportunity. This is the task of Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg. In one sense his task is similar to that of Dr. Israel Katz, who redefined Israel's social policy after the revolt of Israel's Black Panthers movement in 1971. In another sense, his task is similar to the role of Michael Bruno, Eitan Berglas and Stanley Fischer, who crafted the plan to stamp out inflation, which saved Israel in 1985.
But in a third sense Trajtenberg's task is unprecedented. Everything that happened here in the past month is being channeled to the desk of this wise and ethical economist. He's the one who has to translate the conceptual revolution into a logical work plan. He's the one who has to shape Israel's de facto New Deal. He's the real revolutionary.
If Trajtenberg does his job properly, neither the conservatives of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor the radicals of protest leader Daphni Leef will be able to stop him. A million Israelis will take to the streets for a worthy document by Trajtenberg. A nation that has just arisen will stand behind a formative document by Trajtenberg.