To Make a Real Impact, Israeli Protesters Must Vote

The current protests are about the high cost of living, but they are also about estrangement: The elected official has forgotten that the voter is the source of his authority.

Anarchy instead of hierarchy: This is how Israel's regime looks in the summer of popular protest. The old structure, from top to bottom, that separates the authorities from the people instead of separating the authorities from each other is breaking down without a new structure rising from the rubble. Our leaders are very small, petty. They preach sacrifice yet they are exposed as greedy and wretched in criminal investigations and in reports by the state comptroller (who has another six shots in his clip ready for the coming months ).

The people managing the country have no one to cut a deal with. After the breakdown of the authority relationship between child-parent, student-teacher and soldier-officer, now it's the turn of citizen-government. While the current protests are about the high cost of living, they're also about estrangement: The elected official has forgotten that the voter is the source of his authority.

The history is well known. By the mid-1970s, the ruling party, Mapai-Alignment-Labor, had lost its hold on the reins because of internal convulsions after the Yom Kippur War and the next generation's disappointment with the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. During the 1980s, as Shas entered the scene, Peres and Likud chief Yitzhak Shamir wasted their chance to form a centrist bloc without depending on the religious parties. This happened because of their mutual suspicions. And, as is the nature of politics, their suspicions were justified.

The 1990s ushered in a media revolution: Channel 2, Channel 10, a cellphone for everybody, the Internet. A wave of Basic Laws and a weakening of censorship brought with it a new spirit, our political and defense leaders lost control over the flow of information, and party institutions lost their power to the studios, the cameras, the computers, the telephones, the ever-present news, rumors and opinions. Thus, despite the law to directly elect the prime minister, the politicians who rose, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, fell at the same speed, though they got back on their feet.

When the 2009 elections ended, with Tzipi Livni's Kadima receiving more votes than Netanyahu's Likud, Netanyahu stood at a crossroads. And, as usual in his case, he chose poorly. He could have linked up with Livni - on an equal and alternating basis - with Barak on the side, like the Shamir-Peres-Rabin government of 1984-1990, all the while continuing the dialogue with the Palestinians that began under Ehud Olmert. But with Barak's destructive assistance, Netanyahu joined up with Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman and walked into a dead end that carries with it the risk of violence and external intervention.

The current protest is characterized by the young and women. Among our leaders, the parties realized the importance of youth as a source for activists and a pool of future leaders. They nurtured the youth movements as the carriers of ideology. The tent protest and the demonstrations are the youth movement of the 21st century - in part because the Boulevard Youth are the counterweight to the Hilltop Youth. As for the women, it may be that in the next elections three or four of them will lead, officially or in practice: Livni in Kadima, Zahava Gal-On in Meretz, Shelly Yachimovich in Labor, and Sara Netanyahu in Likud.

This will happen if the parties adjust to the new circumstances in their rivalry for the votes of the center. Kadima, for example, will have to shake off the problematic heritage of Ariel Sharon and Olmert and put forth a new and clear platform and candidate list. The presence of the right wing, in the form of Kadima's Otniel Schneller and others, will dissolve Livni's claim of representing the Israeli majority that is tired of the conflict with the Arabs (whose resolution of course also depends on the other side ) and is ready for a major compromise of less land and more life.

To make funds available domestically, we have to make peace like the agreement reached with Egypt, which allowed us to save on budgets and reservists. But this was wasted on the 1982 Lebanon adventure, on the settlement madness, and in our fleeing from peace with Syria and the Jordanian-Palestinian framework.

The various forms of political maneuvering - primaries, vote contractors, a quarter of the MKs in the cabinet - have been worn down like their leaders. Trust has been lost, not only of the current government, but of government as a whole. For the protest to be decisive, nearly all the protesters must vote in the next elections (the average national rate of participation is two-thirds ). And they need battle-scarred but down-to-earth leaders, experienced but not patronizing.