Five years ago, in a demonstration of lack of faith in their power to change the situation, they voted their grandparents into the Knesset. On Saturday night, Grandma and Grandpa marched alongside them in the city streets, in a moving demonstration of civil activism.
On the eve of the previous election, 19 percent of respondents, aged 18 to 32, to a poll carried out by Maagar Mohot noted that their main source of information on politicians was from the satirical television show, "Eretz Nehederet." Over the past few weeks, they have been persistently peeling away the ironic quotation marks from the term "Yesh lanu eretz nehederet" (We have a wonderful country ). At the time, more than half of them (77 percent of them secular ) claimed not to care about the elections at all. In the next election, they will be the largest settlement bloc of the politicians, and for that we must say mibeira amikta le'igra rama, or to paraphrase the Aramaic - from a deep well to a high rooftop.
Why is it all happening now? After all, "piggish capitalism" wasn't born yesterday. Seven years ago, Shimon Peres, then leader of the opposition, announced that the government's economic policy resulted in "6,000 millionaires and six million beggars." This economic policy did not change after Peres joined the Likud government of Ariel Sharon.
The middle class crumpled under the burdens of the high cost of health, housing, education, food and gasoline under the government of Ehud Olmert as well. The "system" is not new. Their taxes were too high and wages too low then, too, when the head of the opposition stayed in hotel royal suites paid for by Jewish tycoons.
So why are the young people taking to the streets now, on Benjamin Netanyahu's watch? Why did they reject his great plan in anger and derision even before he finished speaking at the special press briefing he convened last week? How is it that precisely now, after Bibi tried so hard to rally the troops around the flag of "the whole world is against us," that Likud voters are sharing tents with leftist women? Why is it that just as he is mobilizing his ministers against the "Palestinian campaign of delegitimizing Israel," young kippa-wearers are walking hand in hand with ponytailed "freaks" in a campaign to delegitimize the government of Israel? How is it that on the eve of the declaration of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and without the settlements, not a single "Judea and Samaria is here" sign could be seen at the demonstrations?
This summer's protests will provide fodder for more than a few sociologists and political psychologists. Im Tirtzu and groups of its ilk have already solved the mystery: The long arm of the New Israel Fund is pulling the strings that are meant to bring down the government and pave the way to a government of the left.
It is true that the NIF, through Shatil, whose Web site describes it as The New Israel Fund's Empowerment and Training Center for Social Change Organizations in Israel, contributed a great deal to empowering Israel's civil society in general and to the fight for affordable housing in particular. The organization does not conceal its aid to the protesters.
On the Web site, NIF Israel Executive Director Rachel Liel "admits" her "guilt," noting: "NIF is proud that it has supported every struggle by civil society in the past decade and is proud to be supporting this struggle - morally, as well as with advice and resources."
But the New Israel Fund is only the fuel additive to the engine of protest. The main contributor behind getting the masses onto the streets and into tents is Netanyahu himself. You cannot fool all of the people all the time. When the prime minister promises two states for two peoples and continues to pour money into the settlements, he loses his credibility even with the right. When the head of state invites photographers to capture for posterity his visit to a supertanker shortly after dozens of police and firefighter families buried their loved ones, don't be surprised when he turns himself into a caricature when he promises to create overnight a "supertanker" to solve housing problems.
How can a young couple who cannot get through the month, month after month after month, be persuaded that the prime minister is genuinely concerned about its situation when it sees the deputy minister for nothing - one of 39 ministers and deputy ministers - standing at his side during a hysterical press conference?
Netanyahu came to divide and found himself uniting; he came to frighten and found himself frightened. History will remember him as the prime minister who contributed more than any of his predecessors to the battle of civil society for peace and security - social peace and economic security. Bibi has done his duty; now Bibi must go.
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