Netanyahu's Missed Opportunity

The prime minister's response to social protests that have swept up Israel is a case study in mismanagement.

As they were absorbing the shock from the huge demonstration Saturday night in Tel Aviv, government ministers, at the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fanned out among the television and radio studios in an effort to calm the populace.

Netanyahu's orders were, on the one hand, to warmly embrace the demonstrators, to identify with them and express sympathy for their plight. On the other hand, they were to warn the audiences of the possible ramifications of the economic earthquake shaking up the capital markets of the United States and Europe.

Netanyahu -  Emil Salman
Emil Salman

Meanwhile, the panel meant to find solutions to the protesters' demands has finally been set up.

Two weeks ago, what was discussed was a trim, smart team, like a reconnaisance squad - four ministers and a few clerks. As the days passed and the pressure grew so did the team, until yesterday, it emerged that the reconnaissance squad had turned into an armored division -- 16 ministers, with two more as observers.

This is not how one sets up a committee meant to deal with the severest internal crisis to rock Israel since who-knows-when. Two precious weeks were wasted by the Prime Minister's Office; two weeks in which the rolling fireball of protest drew the anger of the masses, increasing their frustration and their belief that "no one is paying attention."

Meanwhile, the inaction led a plethora of unions, associations and movements and individuals to the students' side, swelling the number of protesters each subsequent Saturday night to impressive proportions.

And as the numbers have increased, so have the expectations.

Imagine if the team, as originally conceived, had already been at work for 10 days, formulating recommendations, writing position papers, talking with the protest leaders. Would that have fanned the flames or calmed them? Would it have helped Netanyahu or hurt him?

The answer is clear. Every course in crisis management should carefully study the establishment of the "Rothschild team," and learn to do exactly the opposite.