It's hard not to smile in bitter cynicism in light of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's defeat when he sought to have the government approve the Trajtenberg committee's recommendations and failed. It's true this took place against the backdrop of the dizzying successes he's achieved lately: converting American President Barack Obama to Judaism, melting (for now ) U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state, standing up to the Turks and flexing his muscles for the Iranians. It's just a mini-failure, and yet it's still too bad.
Okay, it's not too bad about the recommendations. At best, they suggest that the government apply laws and regulations approved long ago by previous administrations (the Education Law was authorized in 1985 and has been postponed ever since by the Economic Arrangements Law, while the recommendation to reduce the excise tax by 20 agorot was accepted this year ).
At their worst, they hurt the middle class and the working public (the magic words "exposure to imports" reveals a complete indifference to the danger of unemployment ). And in principle they don't contradict Netanyahu's policy, which is what brought about the establishment of the committee in the wake of the protest.
And so it's too bad for whom? A little bit for Manuel Trajtenberg - a pretty nice guy - and for the government, which made a mockery of itself by not approving its own laws, and a lot for Israeli society, which took another punch in the face, eternal proof that this government, and even more so the one who heads it, can't see the protest standing right in front of it. As if it had no significance. As if it never took place at all.
This disregard is strange. Can it be that 400,000 people went out into the streets and the government didn't see or hear? And Moshe Kahlon and the members of Likud headquarters who stand behind him don't understand that this rift will quickly turn into a gaping abyss? Do they not get that, as in 1977, when the obedient public that had voted for Mapai and the Labor Alignment time after time had finally enough of their moral corruption, something is likely to undermine the iron bloc of Netanyahu-Lieberman-Shas?
Apparently they understand, but meanwhile are convinced that what happened in the past will continue in the future, and that the weakness of the unimpressive opposition will keep them in their seats.
Except that something really did change this summer. Even if these days the protest is hidden from the limelight, it exists: a deep current, quiet waters wearing down stone, nourished by offenses and frustration, trying with all its might to work in legitimate ways, to pressure politicians, making cross-party alliances and waiting with great patience.
And on the surface, slowly without being noticed, the political map is beginning to crack. Blocs are shifting in discomfort. Politicians are beginning to sing the tune of social justice, slightly off-key, but they are trying. The Labor Party primaries were the first omen, a harbinger of the news that the socioeconomic paradigm is beginning to change.
It is a slow process, but it will take place. If it succeeds, it will create new partnerships and representations as the elections approach. If it fails, an angry and violent protest will break out in the streets. And the riot, led by people who have nothing to lose, and not by polite young folks who want to get ahead in life, is likely to clash powerfully with a different phenomenon, apparently unconnected, but which is also a direct result of the government's disastrous insensitivity.
There will be unbridled disturbances by those who grew up on settlement hilltops and their environs. The hilltop youth, those who carry out "price tag" acts of revenge, extreme national religious rabbis and groups of young people who were raised on their dubious beliefs, have long ago abandoned the fight over land. Energetic building in the settlements is proof of their victory. Now they are in charge of the occupation of Israeli society in Safed, Acre, Jaffa and Ramat Gan, with the goal of remaking it in their image.
Netanyahu, who did not award his attention to the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who demanded social justice, instead honored with his presence someone who refused to cooperate with an official police investigation, Rabbi Dov Lior. His speeches to the United States Congress and at the U.N. demonstrate to the troublemakers that he is attentive to their belligerent ways, and broadcast scathing contempt to the Arab citizens of Israel.
Anyone who thinks these populations won't clash with each other in the end is truly blind. Even Trajtenberg won't agree to head a committee then.
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