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Masses demand change in Tel Aviv protest Photo: AP
Masses demand change in Tel Aviv protest Photo: AP
 
 

Time to go to the ballots

Op-ed: If Netanyahu is indeed a true patriot, he should call for general elections

Yoel Esteron
Published: 08.10.11, 00:16 / Israel Opinion

Professor Manuel Trachtenberg is by far one of the most impressive individuals I have ever met in the civil service. He is a broad-minded, intelligent and articulate economist. Earlier this week, he made the mistake of agreeing to head Netanyahu's panel of experts. Trachtenberg and his colleagues will serve as an instrument with which the prime minister will play for time and dissolve the protest with myriads of committees and endless babble until something comes along to steal the show – the conflict with the Palestinians, the global crisis or even a particularly rainy winter.

 

It's not experts that Israel is in want of now; rather, it needs a sweeping public decision on the country's image. Trachtenberg should have responded with a nay to the prime minister's offer, sending him, instead, to announce general elections rather than wasting the esteemed professor’s valuable time.

 

 

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Itzik Shmuli has emerged in recent weeks as a bona fide political leader. It's true that the head of the National Student Union has to polish up his dance moves (on beat with Dapnhi Leef), particularly when in the cameras' eye; however, his speech from the Kaplan street stage was inspiring and the skill with which he unified the embroiled tent protesters attests to his maturity. Now, having galvanized people onto the streets, he must avoid falling into the trap Netanyahu's posse is setting for him in the form of "negotiations over protestors' demands" – Shmuli and his colleagues haven't a chance in hell with this kind of a format.

 

They will be put through a wringer of clauses and sub-clauses; the protestors' demands will be blown out of all proportion, and winter will soon be upon the tent protesters. Shmuli, Leef and all of these surprising young people need to set a different tune and instead of a setting forth a long list of demands, they must step forward and claim social elections on behalf of the people.

 

Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the most brilliant politicians in the history of Israeli politics. As oppose to common opinion, he is a resolute idealist – not an opportunist. When he holds on to his chair he does so in full faith that he is acting on behalf of Israel's future and not in order to enjoy the perks of his office. All politicians are driven to survive but Netanyahu is beginning to realize that his ad hoc remedies and committees won't bail him out – they'll just put off the inevitable.

 

Don’t let them dupe us again

If he is a true patriot and if indeed he's concerned about the future of the country, he should declare general elections on his own initiative thus, allowing the citizens of Israel to determine what kind of country they wish to live in. Although this may seem a political paradox of sorts, if Netanyahu continues to drag his feet, he will be humiliated and eventually ousted; if, on the other hand, he opts for general elections – well, such an honest and courageous move might just land him back in his chair.

 

This week, Avigdor Lieberman seems full of himself more than usual. Life is heaven when the constituency is out sweating on the streets of Tel Aviv – especially if it's not his constituency, or so he believes. Lieberman may brush aside the protest and make a mockery of it in his typical sarcastic demeanor, but maybe the seasoned politician got his signals crossed this time.

 

One way or another, the chances of Lieberman doing the right thing such as leading the coalition to elections are slimmer than the chances of religious parties breaking up the "natural alliance" and giving up their clout. So, the ball is back in Netanyahu's court. Ostensibly, his united coalition serves him well and enables him to survive, but in fact, it's turning him into a lame duck, debilitated and held captive by his own cohort. Is this really how the government wants to pass the time remaining until the 2013 elections?

 

The claim for social justice will not usher in such justice in one fell swoop. In the heat of the summer, expectations are high, politicians are alarmed, the protest leaders are inexperienced and the economy's captains are staying out of sight. This volatile combination might lead to anarchy and disaster. It is advisable to take a breath of fresh air for a moment and patiently separate the wheat of reasonable and well-needed adjustments to a distorted system from the chaff of empty slogans. This is a defining moment and as such should be treated with due solemnity and patience. But not too much patience – six months seems like a sufficient timeframe.

 

A pronouncement of general elections in the beginning of 2012 might cool off the spectacular grassroots protest, but at the same time it may present a chance for genuine change. Parties will be compelled to present explicit "social justice" platforms and explain to their constituencies how they intend to maintain the balance between the protestors' just claims and their own sacred cows and favored sectors. Up to this summer, the body politic was able to keep the public in the dark as regards the price tag on the exorbitant settlement enterprise and the generous support for the ultra-Orthodox sector – perhaps because we chose not to turn the lights on. In this moment of optimism, I hope that we won't let them dupe us again in the 2012 elections.

 

Yoel Esteron is the founder and publisher of business newspaper Calcalist

 

Click here to read this op-ed in Hebrew

 

 

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