Restoring Order Withopen-checkbook Diplomacy

Social justice is about to make the comeback of its life. But in the end, the question is: who gets it?

The main issue with the committee of ministers and experts to be established today to discuss the reasons for the current social unrest, is not about how much to give, but to whom to give it. The top has come off of the cookie jar, no doubt about it; the wallet is open, the check is being written.

Social justice is about to make the comeback of its life. But in the end, the question is: who gets it?

To the middle class or to the poor? To the "white tribe" living in tents and expressing itself with such yuppie fluency or to the truly downtrodden who have already lost all will and strength to fight? To those who earn NIS 10,000 a month, or to those who earn NIS 4,000?

After two weeks of frenetically tearing their hair out at the Prime Minister's Bureau, relative order has returned to Bibi's aquarium.

In establishing the committee, whose members consist of most of the economic and "social" ministers in his cabinet, Netanyahu has created something that has been lacking until today: a process. No longer shooting from the hip. No longer scattered fragments by popular demand, once it's housing, then it's gas prices, then it's daycare.

The committee will discuss the issues comprehensively, across the inflamed societal spectrum. It will make recommendations to the prime minister. That is how Netanyahu wants to take control of the chaos.

On the face of it, this seems like a reasonable approach. The Pavlovian response of a number of the Rothschild Boulevard protest leaders, who hastily turned down the initiative and demanded direct negotiations with Netanyahu to be broadcast 24/7, reality-TV style, shows that something has gone wrong with them.

Something is going around there among the tents, and it got them in the head. Haste is of the devil, as the saying goes, and rudeness is not a plan of action. They attained so much in so little time; what a pity for it to go down the drain because of their inexperience.

At a meeting of the Likud ministers yesterday, most supported meeting the protesters halfway, loosening the reins. They were in favor of what is known as tikkun - making things right. Despite the endless media buzz, relations between Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Netanyahu seem fine. Only Minister Benny Begin brought politics into the protests.

Coalition chairman MK Ze'ev Elkin, who initiated the Boycott Law, went all the way, as usual: "This is a political battle; it has to be fought the way a political battle is fought," he advised Netanyahu.

This time, unlike with the Boycott Law, Netanyahu did not take his advice. The common denominator between Elkin and Netanyahu is that they both want to be re-elected: Elkin by the extreme right wing of the Likud, and Netanyahu by the people.

Together with the establishment of the committee, Netanyahu is working hard to torpedo the populist idea of extending the Knesset's summer session. It's not the populism that bothers the prime minister, but rather what can happen if MKs keep going to work: no-confidence votes. Netanyahu needs parliamentary calm in the coming weeks until the storm passes, although his government is stable. No one there wants it to fall, not even Shas, whose leader, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, was the first to think of postponing the recess. He was joined, fashionably late, by opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima ).

But even if the Knesset remains in session for the coming weeks, what difference will it make? The struggle is still going on in the streets, the town squares, the tents. The Knesset, with its slogans, its cliches and its empty discussions, is irrelevant.

It might be better for the lawmakers to take a vacation until the High Holy Days. That way they will do less damage to the country. We have seen the fruit of the Knesset's labors over the past few weeks in a series of racist and anti-democratic laws, which were presented and passed or were voted down. A recess couldn't hurt.