Rise Above the One Million

There is nothing new in this infatuation by a particular segment of the population with the genre of demonstrating for the sake of demonstrating. This is the chief weapon of all those who shy away from actual political activity.

It is not clear who the wise guy was who threw out this number in the first place - perhaps because of hubris and gluttony after the demonstration of the 300,000, or perhaps due to the influence of television quiz shows, where a prize of less than one million is considered insignificant. But it is clear that even one million wise men will not be able to pull the "million-man demonstration" out of the problematic corner into which it is liable to be pushed on Saturday night.

After all, "one million" people won't be there, at least not an empirical one million about which everyone can agree. And even if this is the biggest demonstration in the history of the state, if not the history of mankind, it is not clear how much it will influence Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who understands only the language of politics and images, or how it will improve the undisputed achievements of the demonstration of the 300,000.

But the tension is tremendous, like that before the drawing of the big prize in the lottery: Will the record be broken? Will we reach one million on Saturday night? Every single potential participant certainly feels this tension in his own body: Will I come up to expectations? Will they count me if I stand on my toes? Or perhaps I'll clone myself (staying away is obviously out of the question ) so that the demonstration won't be declared a total fiasco if only 800,000 turn up?

On the other hand, anyone who is openly or secretly lying in wait for the "protest" to fail - that means the settler right and Netanyahu's bureau - does not need the facts on Saturday night to do the math and claim that not only won't the demonstration even approach a quarter of a million, but also that fewer people will be there than were at the show of support for indicted singer Margalit Tzan'ani.

Two typical Israeli traits could undermine the protest movement. One is overkill - the tendency to use excessive force and worship quantitative might. The other is the desire to embrace absolutely everyone.

Indeed, there is something fetishistic about the effort to expand the sea of heads as an objective in itself, whether through "attractions" and crowd pleasers (rumor has it that if there is a real emergency, if only half a million show up, even Arik Einstein will be pulled out as the doomsday weapon ) or through a white-out of politics that aims to stretch the fabric of agreement to cover absolutely everyone. (It's therefore not surprising that the issue of Gilad Shalit was also brought into the fray. Why not also donations to Libi, the soldiers' welfare fund? )

There is nothing new in this infatuation by a particular segment of the population with the genre of demonstrating for the sake of demonstrating. This is the chief weapon of all those who shy away from actual political activity - for the most part, people from the center or left of the political map. They hurry home to read the reviews of the demonstration, to hear "how many came" and to hope that "someone up there" will be impressed and do something about it.

Meanwhile, on the stage where the real action takes place, there are Israelis who are up to their necks in political activity - mainly on the right, among the ultra-Orthodox and settler communities. They are smart, seasoned, diligent activists who love politics and know how to speak its language, "teeth-pullers" who know just how to squeeze or maneuver or juggle anything electoral or parliamentary. In short, people who know how to use political power.

And one look at the clear order of priorities adopted by this government and most of its predecessors is enough to understand that in the long and permanent run, the country's fate is determined in political kitchens, not in the city squares, with their candles and performances.

From a political standpoint, the protest organizers might be wise to put the "million-man demonstration" sword back in its sheath at the last moment, before the effect that has already been achieved is lost, and leave it there as a potential back-up. And yes, I do mean a "political" standpoint - for after all, it would be better if the new generation stormed into actual political action.

Indeed, instead of counting heads in the trunk of the car, why not try to gain control of the driver's seat and the direction in which the vehicle is traveling - by counting votes? What, is that only for the Bibis and the Liebermans?