Yet Another Lost Generation?

Where are the people with the scepter of change in their hands, those who can't be bought and therefore won't sell us out at the first opportunity?

More than the despair stems from the situation, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, it stems from the slim chance of changing it before disaster strikes. Our hope is not yet gone, it's just on its way out. Where are the people with the scepter of change in their hands, those who can't be bought and therefore won't sell us out at the first opportunity? Where are those who can resist the fire of temptation - those who, if a fishing rod is cast into the deep with a worm of greed at the end of its hook, will be the last to be caught by it?

I met former Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Winograd during my work as education minister. I had set up a public commission for reducing tuition in institutions of higher learning, and was looking for a chairman. I phoned the president of the Supreme Court to get a recommendation from him. Aharon Barak suggested Winograd, who did his job faithfully and garnered praise for it. Since then he became a popular chairman on other committees, and did not disappoint.

Until recently; until we saw him starring in a Shas film as a defender of "the burnt one" (Interior Minister Eli Yishai ). We were beside ourselves with amazement: Why did the honorable judge decide to switch roles, from a scourge of the stables to a concealer of the dung. So be it, we sighed, he's probably doing it out of inner conviction, not to receive a reward. What a shame we were mistaken.

Our wild imagination is painting a picture: Winograd is deliberating on the issue of the Second Lebanon War, trying to discover the truth, when suddenly a delegation of expert witnesses turns up: Justice Shimon Agranat of the Yom Kippur War, Justice Yitzhak Kahan of Sabra and Chatila, Justice Meir Shamgar of the Baruch Goldstein massacre in the Cave of the Patriarchs and Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg of the social justice protest. They are all coming to defend those who hired them - those who are being interrogated. They are now investing their entire reputation in generals, each of whom failed in turn; an investment with a handsome reward. Winograd lifts an eyebrow, somewhat amazed, and that's what we're doing, too, at the moment.

Or Itzik Shmuli, a rising power who promises and keeps his word. Suddenly it turns out he is also among those in the hire of a tycoon - a rebel who is turning into a public relations man. "He's not against the protest," he testified about his benefactor on television, so long as no container of cottage cheese will fall off the shelf.

But the protest is against him as well. The committee for examining the relations between capital and government had a good-and-bad reason this week to forbid elected officials from meeting privately with wealthy businessmen, and it knows why: Together they "are destroying the culture of government in Israel."

Nochi Dankner is a wealthy businessman, and Shmuli was elected by the university students, and it's doubtful whether the "new Israelis" gave him a mandate to revert to old habits. With promising young people like him, who needs disappointing old people like us?

Although the objective is desirable - establishing a community of students in Lod - the means are unacceptable. A donation is the mother of all sin - once you've received it, you're enslaved. You will no longer be able to demand social justice when the knights of injustice are standing behind you; you won't be able, Itzik, to bring about the slightest change in the anti-social economic system when its high priests are oiling the wheels of your revolution. Don't deceive yourself and your constituency.

After all, leveraged donations, like investments, are both made at our expense in a kind of circular deal: One takes far too much from the citizens in order to give very little back to them. Dankner is paying his debt to society at a discount price, with Shmuli selling the protest to him cheaply. The "Roentgen" (Rabbi Yaakov "The X-Ray" Ifergan, whom Dankner patronizes ) charges more.

Eli Yishai and Dankner are similar: Both are pretending to be Dreyfus - they are being persecuted for no reason. And it's not only them, the country is full of Dreyfuses, it's all one big Dreyfusland. One day we'll discover that even Emile Zola received a handsome royalty from L'Aurore for his "J'accuse."

In the 50s and 60s, the symbol of honesty in Israeli politics was Kadish Luz, a member of Kibbutz Degania, speaker of the Knesset. The joke went that one fellow would say to another, "There isn't one politician in the country who's honest," and the second would reply, "That's not so, we have several honest policians." The first would say, "Name just a few." And the second would think, and think, and finally inquire, "Did I mention Kadish Luz?"

And so once again we're left to build a country with Kadish Luz, and even he hasn't been with us for 40 years.