Everything Depends on How Many People Will Take to the Streets on Saturday Night

If 50,000 people come this Saturday night – in the wake of the 30,000 who marched last Saturday night – Netanyahu’s seat will really start to shake

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Demonstrators protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, December 2, 2017.
Demonstrators protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, December 2, 2017.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Nehemia Shtrasler

If I had a conspiratorial mind, I’d say Donald Trump’s dramatic announcement about recognizing Jerusalem, at this precise timing, was a spin planned by Netanyahu and Trump for one purpose – to save the prime minister’s job by diverting public opinion from the central issue, the corruption investigations against him.

If I had a developed conspiratorial mind, I’d say that whoever brokered and advanced the spin was someone very close to Trump – say Sheldon Adelson, who well understands how shaky Netanyahu’s status has become. And, if I had a conspiratorial mind squared and a little sense of humor, I’d say Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau was in on the spin. He put out a statement this week commanding every Jew to pray for rain. And it’s clear that rain on Saturday night will have a negative effect on the number of demonstrators marching on Rothschild Boulevard.

Don’t make light of this demonstration. If 50,000 people come this Saturday night – in the wake of the 30,000 who marched last Saturday night – it will mean that despite Trump’s Jerusalem announcement, the number of people who are fed up with Netanyahu is steadily increasing – and then Netanyahu’s seat will really start to shake.

The one who’ll decide if the shaking becomes a landslide is Moshe Kahlon. He did everything until Saturday night to protect Netanyahu and himself. He said the “Bibi law” – the bill to silence the police, aka the “recommendations law” – wasn’t personal, and accused the media as usual of misunderstanding. But, he realized that he was the one who had gotten it wrong when he watched the broadcasts of the great demonstration on Rothschild on Saturday night. People were holding up posters directed against him personally.

Then Netanyahu left him alone in the rain, when he said the law won’t apply to him. By so doing, the prime minister proved that the bill was personal and how. Then came MK Miki Zohar, who said “the bill was born to protect the prime minister’s reputation.” Personal squared, Mr. Kahlon.

The finance minister understood last Saturday night that the wind had changed direction. So he caved in and gave his party’s MKs the freedom to vote as they choose. So did Naftali Bennett. And then Netanyahu understood that the die had been cast and put off the vote on the law. It will be interesting to see how Kahlon reacts when the police recommend charging Netanyahu for bribery, on the so-called Case 1000. The pressure on him to resign will be huge. Will he blame the journalists again, or will he understand why Kulanu took a nosedive in the last poll to only six Knesset seats?

The fate of religious coercion in Israel will also be determined on Saturday. If the demonstration is big, Netanyahu won’t even try to pass the new religious coercion bills – closing minimarkets and banning railway works on the Sabbath. The public atmosphere will make it impossible. Minister Yariv Levin and Haim Bibas, the chairman of the Local Authorities’ Federation, have already explained to him that giving in to the ultra-Orthodox means losing five or six Knesset seats to Yair Lapid.

At the beginning of the week, the demonstration was in danger of being split. Eliad Shraga, head of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, wanted to organize a protest of his own in Rabin Square. But, he moved the protest to Habima Plaza following talks with Eldad Yaniv and facing other pressures, ensuring that there’ll be one big demonstration that begins at Habimah and continue with a march on Rothschild to Rabin Square.

The right wing is praying for the demonstration to fail; that much is obvious. But, the radical left is apparently also scorning the protesters. As far as the radical left is concerned, changing the government is avoiding the main issue. And what’s the main issue? The siege on Gaza. For them, the demonstration should be about Gaza, even if 50 people come instead of 50,000.

Luckily, Meni Naftali and Eldad Yaniv aren’t worried about that. They’re going ahead with organizing the demonstration, hoping that 50,000 people do show up. Now it all depends on you.

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