Netanyahu Doesn't Have a Chance Against Tent City

The housing crisis may be beyond our prime minister, but he can easily contain the Histadrut, despite the strength it could add to the struggle.

At 2 A.M. I reached the location I had been given in a tent city. Teenage boys and girls from the youth movement Hamahanot Ha'olim were tying the last boards together. The idea was to copy the tower-and-stockade operations of prestate days.

When the order was given, they all ran to the destination, Habima Theater, and erected the boards in the square to create a four-meter tower with a wall around it.

Israel housing protest - Tali Mayer - July 26 2011.
Tali Mayer

"The British are coming," someone shouted. Sleepy security guards appeared.

"From my wages here my little girl gets food to eat," an Arab guard said, explaining why the youths should leave.

I came late to the press conference Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini held at the labor federation's headquarters. Behind countless microphones, Eini lectured, trying to take over the protest a day after a poll showed the entire nation was behind it and thought the fiasco was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fault.

Like Netanyahu, Eini doesn't understand the protest has long ceased to be about housing. "It's no longer the real estate, stupid," someone coined a Facebook slogan.

The protesters shouted "the people want social justice," but none of that entered Eini's speech. This is a generation that has just rediscovered ideology and everyone is feeding it peanuts.

Netanyahu doesn't have a chance against the new politics of the tent city. But he can easily contain the Histadrut, despite the strength it could add to the struggle.

"Ask him about the doctors," a technician told a television reporter at question time. But the reporter didn't.

In the early days of the struggle, some called the protesters losers. It seems Netanyahu is more entitled to that nickname now.

One of the people arrested after Saturday night's large demonstration was Michael Mossinsohn, grandson of Yigal Mossinsohn, author of the "Hasamba" children's book series. This invites a comparison between the youngsters who started the protest and the youths of Hasamba, who saved Israel when the adults failed.

The tents stretch all the way to the Cantina restaurant, where tycoons and politicians eat. Unlike the nearby cafe, which I will boycott from now on despite the law, Cantina's owner supports the protest and happily lets demonstrators use his bathroom and drink his water.

I asked the waitresses if the tycoons and politicians still show up, or if are they afraid. "I'm screwed both because of my rent and because they no longer come," she said. "Maybe we should put up a waitresses' tent."