Method in His Madness

1. I easily overcame the troop of bodyguards surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pulled out my plastic gun, and ordered him to come with me to the yard without so much as a squeak. There, I tied him to the mulberry tree and commanded that he repeat, word for word, the plan that he presented on television last Tuesday for dealing with the housing crisis, fake smile and all.

"If you get even one word wrong, you're done for," I announced.

Illustration (Eran Wolkowski)
Eran Wolkowski

Netanyahu didn't seem worried. He repeated the role perfectly, no mistakes. In fact, I was impressed. I asked how he did it.

"It's very simple," said the PM. "I use the 'no-way-out' method. Each time I need to deliver a dramatic speech of some sort - about peace with the Palestinians, for example - while knowing that I myself don't believe a word I'm saying, I order one of my bodyguards, a really scary one, to stage a kidnapping. The bodyguard takes me out to the yard, ties me to a tree, and makes me repeat the speech again and again, as if my life depended on it. Although inside I continue not to believe in my false promises, there is something here, despite the despair I feel about my own lies, that is conveyed to the audience: Bit by bit, I make them change their negative opinion about me. They say: Poor guy. He's trying so hard. Let's give him a chance."


2. I went down to the tent city on Rothschild Boulevard and asked where I could get a "protest activist" tag. I saw two young women, who managed to get the TV cameras to film them with the caption "protest leader" under their photos, which is how they became certified leaders of the protest.

I recognized them immediately. One had worked until recently as a waitress at a restaurant on Rothschild, who specialized in an aggressive recitation of that day's entrees as if they were Israel Defense Forces rules of engagement. The other young woman was the aggressive hostess at that same restaurant, who specialized in giving you the feeling that the place is doing you a favor by letting you eat there.

Which face of the young protesters is more authentic? The aggressive, arrogant face they usually have, giving you - someone who is some years older than them - the feeling that the world belongs to them and that you can go to hell for all they care? Or the distressed, sympathetic face suddenly bestowed on them by television, from the moment they are labelled with the tag "protest leaders"?


3. The phrase "10 families that rule this country" is constantly being thrown about, with a tinge of envy, along the lines of: What would happen, dear 10 families, if I were to join your ranks? Please! You wouldn't feel the difference, whereas for me it would be a quantum leap.

Before those 10 families laden with capital ruled the land, it was ruled by 10 bureaucrats from the Histadrut labor federation. This is usually forgotten. The young protesters, born directly into a privatized world, cannot recall that, under the rule of the 10 Histadrut pencil pushers, life was no better, perhaps much worse - and that the state considered it its duty to torment the individual, terrorize him with bureaucracy, and prevent any expression of criticism.

A reminder of those distant days was provided by Charlie Biton, a leader of the Israeli Black Panthers - the Mizrahi, Jerusalemite, 1970s version of the Rothschild Boulevard protest movement. Like a specter, Biton appeared suddenly in the Tel Avivian tent city, excitedly declaring some social slogan or other to the television cameras.

I was reminded of the exclamation by then-Prime Minister Golda Meir after her meeting with the leaders of the Black Panthers: "They are not nice!" That exclamation entered Israeli lore, symbolizing the alienation between the leaders of the Labor Party and the people. Sympathy was then entirely on the side of the Black Panthers and their struggle, and poor Meir, like Netanyahu today, was ridiculed by all.

And what were the consequences? Biton and his associates could not lead the Mizrahi social protest of the time, delivering it, like a ripe fruit, into the hands of Menachem Begin. The right came to power, and Israel became a much more brutal country socially, politically and militarily.

Perhaps, after all, Meir was right in her "not nice" exclamation. She at least knew history, and understood - much better than the young crowd of Rothschild today - where naive protest movements lead to, providing momentary excitement for their participants and spectators. Meanwhile, in the shadows, an evil, evil man is already rubbing his hands with glee, planning to exploit the protest to enshroud us all in his evil - more sophisticated and current than the evil of his predecessors.