The Shekel Drops Hard / The Protest Needs New Leadership

Anybody can make a mistake. People do. The prime minister does. His ministers and Likud Knesset members do too. Sometimes one suspects they make too many mistakes, at least, they get it wrong more than they get it right. The leaders of the tent protest can err too. They shouldn't have demanded a face-to-faceoff with the prime minister himself, on prime time television to boot. Bad mistake.

So, they're toast? The Likud faction gets to pop corks and sneer that the protesters are a bunch of pot-smoking sushi-snarfing anarchists? Well, what can you expect from people who listen mainly to themselves.

Monday was the hardest day for the tent protesters. The cost of their naïve hubris was bad press, and talk - accurate, apparently - about disunity among their leadership, leading to gloating in the ruling party. Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu started to act like the story was over.

They're all wrong. The protest is a grass-roots movement. Even if the tents are dismantled, the issues will remain. Israel's agenda has changed.

Which doesn't mean that the tent protest doesn't need a change of direction. The tent dwellers aren't just kids anymore. The calls for social justice and housing for all spoke to older people as well. Why? Because finally, at long last, something was happening. Finally the voice of the unrepresented was being heard, the voice of people who earn pretty decent salaries yet live on overdrafts. People who serve in the army and pay taxes, but feel the state doesn't see them. They hear the state of the economy has never been better - yet the more they work, the less hope they feel. And thus young and not-so-young joined hands and 150,000 of them flooded the streets on Saturday night. This isn't over.

Yet the tent protesters feel something is missing. It isn't that the mood on Rothschild Boulevard has changed: it's hot, steamy, hopeful. But while their leaders traipse from visiting the president to talking on TV, the people on the street are starting to suspect that maybe this democratic happening isn't enough. That there's a focus issue. Everybody out there wants more justice - divorced dads, teachers, animal rights activists. They're all right. But the whirl of demands is so diverse that a 9-year-old child was heard exclaiming in bewilderment, "The people want so many things."

For the voice of the protest to be heard clearly, it needs a single leader who can boost the protest from amorphous concept to execution, so even 9-year-olds will understand what the aim is. The comments made by the protest leaders in recent days give the feeling that more than they need a fatherly hug, they need expert advice. Their interviews aren't serving their purpose.

It isn't easy to translate "justice" to "social change."

In a democracy, parliament decides how the pie gets shared, and the Knesset members have clear interests. What's needed on Rothschild and the rest of the tent movement is a person to sharpen the message and not only spout gauzy nothings, but to make things happen. Just like the rest of Israel, the protest movement needs a leader, who will also prevent the whole thing from deteriorating into a mist of imperceptible niche protests ignored by all.

Their draft demands of the prime minister don't augur well either. Some are good but there's nothing that can impel Israel forward. Like a startup that evolves into a big company, the protest has grown beyond the dimensions of its founders. It needs new leadership. Give the founders their due but bring in a new person who can unify the factions and propel the ship forward without losing momentum. Just one thing. Let it not be Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini. The directions he leads are convenient for his buddies in the big unions and monopolies of the rich.