Mind the Gap

We can decide that we deserve more, that we deserve to leave the bondage of the Dankners and the Tshuvas and the Abu Mazens and be free. That we deserve a new deal.

Eldad Yaniv
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Eldad Yaniv

This week, Minister Polishuk returned to our lives, with fine ratings. But it feels like he never left. The precise television character created by playwright Shmuel Hasfari is the spitting image of our politicians in recent decades. A nullity, a puppet on a string, a dishrag that rises to the top job. A faithful duplicate of the original politicians who have totally taken over the (non )-navigation of our lives. Keshet, the Channel 2 franchise holder, mistakenly calls "Polishuk" a comic drama. The truth is that it's a documentary about Israeli politics. And of what the hell has become of us.

It might seem odd that Israeli politics does not attract successful young people to its ranks, as has been the case in the past decade and a half in most of the Western world. Whereas in the world we dream of resembling, young men and women are knocking on parliament's doors, here it's comeback types, losers or the jaded. In the Israel of 2011, the politicians, as a whole, belong to two defined groups: the Hirchsons or the Polishuks. Some are busy with envelopes and thefts, the rest are passing the time.

Sasson Gabai in "Polishuk."

Since David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin no longer work here, no true revolution has been fomented in Israel. It's lucky that Ben-Gurion managed to establish the National Insurance Institute and the free state-education system, that Menachem Begin made peace with Egypt and that Yitzhak Rabin enacted the National Health Insurance Law for e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. Those who came after them are busy keeping the seat warm. They couldn't give a hoot about any of the rest of it: a million Israelis who survive on NIS 3,200 a month and the 40 percent of Israelis who hang on with less than NIS 4,300 a month.

And a middle class, a supposed "middle class," the backbone, you know, of every healthy society, but how can you live with dignity when you have to get through the month on less than NIS 6,700? Well, as long as Nochi Dankner is laughing all the way to the bank. As long as Yitzhak Tshuva is happy with the reduced taxation on his natural gas.

This is the new Zionism: being led, not leading. Surviving and not breaking through. Every Polishuk has his own scriptwriter, who moves him along the screen of life like a marionette. For example, the forum of seven Polishuks who have been meeting in Jerusalem for more than two years for urgent discussions accompanied by bourekas, until Abu Mazen and Ismail Haniyeh decided to impose Israel's permanent borders at the UN General Assembly this coming September.

The Israeli Polishuks have been working for years for the Abu Mazens, Dankners, Tshuvas & Co. That's how it is. Polishuk needs a scriptwriter because he doesn't really have a life of his own. Sasson Gabai, the actor who plays Polishuk, needs Hasfari. Bibi needs Abu Mazen. The rest need Dankner. Because of big capital. Because of big government. Because of the newspaper. And the others are afraid Tshuva will get angry. About the offshore gas.

Imagine what Bibi would do in life without Abu Mazen. What he would talk about. Who he would threaten. Or the boredom that would afflict Yuval Steinitz without Dankner. What would they do if they couldn't pass the time by marching to Dankner's tune?

It's not obligatory to remain Dankner's eunuchs. If Steinitz chose to go that route, or Ariel Atias, that's their business. Now hear this: When Dankner fiddles with the officials of Bank Hapoalim, which should have changed its name long ago from the "workers' bank" to Bank Ha'adonim, the "bosses' bank," we are the first to pay the price. When the bank writes off a Dankner debt of NIS 64 million just because he asked, or expected it, or made eyes, or just felt like becoming the owner of a newspaper, we are the ones who plug the hole. In all kinds of ways. For example, the bank immediately dispatches lawyers to sink their teeth into people who are behind in their mortgage or loan payments, so it can seize their apartments while they are still worth something. That's to make sure the books stay balanced after the hole created by Dankner. Dankner, too, needs to balance his books and stay on top. And the Bosses' Bank can't wait to help. Because it's a mutually back-scratching world. And the bank has plenty more ways to make life miserable for those who owe pennies so that Dankner, who owes millions, will be happy.

We are not obliged to remain Dankner's eunuchs. Nor should we ignore the reasons why so many Polishuks who have left the public sphere find jobs with him - Roni Milo and Danny Naveh and Aryeh Mintkevich and Haim Gavrieli and so many treasury guys and Israel Securities Authority guys. In short, all the public officials who should have kept our pockets safe from Dankner are leaving us for Nochiland, to line their pockets at Dankner's expense. And Dankner is generous to them.

It's also not obligatory to be the eunuchs of the Abu Mazens. If you want to take the big settlement blocs and turn them into part of sovereign Israel, you have to call the UN secretary general and inform him that Israel thinks it's necessary to recognize a Palestinian state, because in any case Ben-Gurion already recognized it in 1947. And what we agreed to then, we will certainly agree to today, when the Palestinians are getting a state half the size of what we agreed to in 1947. Only a patsy like Polishuk, or like Bibi, can keep arguing like a furniture salesman and let Ismail Haniyeh decide on our border for us.

We can decide that we deserve more, that we deserve to leave the bondage of the Dankners and the Tshuvas and the Abu Mazens and be free. That we deserve a new deal. That we deserve a government without Polishuks. A government that makes decisions. For example, to rezone 100,000 dunams (25,000 acres ) of land for young couples to build their homes in every part of the country, with the contractor who wins the tender committing himself to a reasonable and limited price. A government that understands that gaps like these between rich and poor are more dangerous than a thousand Ahmadinejads. That in a Zionist state that is committed to mutual surety it is unthinkable for wage earners to collapse under direct and indirect taxes while supposed tycoons celebrate.

We can raise significantly the capital gains tax and the corporation tax - and don't panic if Dankner leaves the country or stops "donating" peanuts to us from the millions he has saved by avoiding taxes. Because, who exactly will accept him if he flees from here? The supposed tycoons of Israel are local tycoons, because they know best how to print money in Israel, with the help of the Polishuks. There's no guarantee that the Dankners could get along for very long out in the wide world. There are no Polishuks there.

We deserve a government that repays those who served it in the army or in national service by giving them an undergraduate degree at its expense and giving their children a free education from the age of three months. Because what the Shas children and parents deserve, we deserve too. A government that changes the electoral system so that the one who earns the majority of the votes has the opportunity to manage things here for four years without being dependent on all the Polishuks. A new deal. A government that will not ask where to find the money for all this, but will find creative solutions, like those devised by Ben-Gurion, who knew where to get money for National Insurance and for a free education system and for absorbing a million immigrants and for establishing an army and a state, at a time when people had no eggs and made omelets out of powder. That was a time of austerity. Nowadays, the Dankners will have to forgo the caviar on the private plane so that everyone will have more. That is exactly what Herzl wanted: mutual surety. Social responsibility.

We always laughed at the Arabs around us. The dummies from 1948. The losers from 1967. The cowards from 1973. Now they are probably laughing at us. And with good reason. While they were going into the streets and sending their Mubaraks home and will soon send the rest, too, we will mark this article "Like." Well, that doesn't work anymore, and it certainly won't be enough to bring change. Or liberation!

To feel what liberation means, we have to send the Dankners packing. If there is really to be a New Middle East here, we have to get out of the armchair and shoo the Polishuks back into the TV screen. If we really want to be able to celebrate independence next year, after 64 years, Israel needs a revolution.

Polishuks go home!



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