Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday pooh-poohed the nationwide protest over a controversial housing bill, calling it "a populist wave." That is exactly the appropriate name for his fixation on setting up national committees to approve new housing projects.
The protesters wanted to defer the bill, Netanyahu established a fait accompli, just to show who's boss.
He seems to be using the same tactics he pulled on Vicki Knafo in 2003, namely unfounded but charismatic slogans along with a complacent smirk. In Knafo's days it was "Parasites, go to work," although she was a working woman, as were most of the single mothers protesting by her side. Today it's "the protest is politically motivated," although the protesters consist of diverse opinions and leanings. Then, as today, Netanyahu is refusing to meet the protest leaders or show them the least bit of respect.
Netanyahu knows how it works. More importantly, he knows how the media work. Now it's bon ton in the media to mourn the revolution. Now, the reports are stressing the disagreements, the cracks. In fact, it's not the protest that's cracking, but some of the reporters' stamina. After all, it isn't easy to sit it out in the 37 degrees Centigrade of August heat on Rothschild Boulevard. Not the most comfortable place for reporters accustomed to interviewing economists in air-conditioned offices and pampering Knesset corridors.
Anyone who thinks it's Woodstock, sushi and hookah out there, should come to visit one day. What is happening is nothing less than heartwarming. They're celebrating there, despite everything, the victory they've already achieved. Regardless of how it ends or how many of their demands are met, the real victory is in changing the worldview and in the atmosphere absorbed by small children whose parents bring them there.
For over a decade now, the only value cultivated around here has been individualism. Almost every average child got from his parents that you need money or connections to get on in life. For too long, every person has been living in his little space, surviving the security and economic difficulties day by day and scurrying to make a buck. For too long, we've become used to doing no more than our job requires, to being screwed and to screwing each other.
Maybe it's naive, maybe it won't last, but at this moment things look different. Suddenly it's not delusional to fight for justice, suddenly there's faith that together we can make a difference, change the discourse, then the foundation for our entire life here. No more the rule of proteksia, of connections and money. Now it's the real people's turn.
The easiest thing to do is criticize and scorn. Ultimately, those who enter history will be those who hold firmly onto the tent pole.
Now, the prime minister's aides and some news rooms will try to take the wind out of their sails. But for every such attempt, the youngsters are planting another stake - Kiryat Shmona, Or Yehuda, Ashdod - conquering every bit of grass, just like on Independence Day.