The only Israeli leader no one dares to challenge faced the cameras Tuesday and made it clear that he, and only he, is taking responsibility for the Shalit deal.
I am not talking about Netanyahu, whose “me, me, me” speech merely served to remind everyone that the swap prompted him to assume the opposite positions of what he believed in all his life. I am most certainly not talking about Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
The leader of the country, who surprisingly is doing a decent job, is the Israeli street.
The moment where Gilad Shalit arrived
home proved that the Israeli street possesses all the traits which those who make pretenses of leading the country lack: It’s determined, patient, shows organizational ability and knows how to fight for long years in order to achieve objectives that initially appeared a lost cause.
Gilad Shalit is not the first one to enjoy these abilities. The Israeli street has been managing our lives for some years now. In early phases of the struggles it always meets patronizing responses and contempt, yet it always turns out that we must not underestimate it.
The Four Mothers group was initially referred to by army heads as the “four spineless women,” yet at the end of the day they brought us out of Lebanon; leaders of the Gush Emunim settlement organization were initially treated as a messianic, delusional group, until it turned out they changed the face of the Middle East; the young people who led the social protest were disparaged, yet now all the experts at the Treasury are trying to draft a new kind of capitalism.
This role reversal between the people and its leaders may be very problematic, but at least on the Shalit front it entails a sense of poetic justice. After all, the one who shall pay the price of the deal is the very same street that demanded it.
The same street where signs were posted is where buses will be exploding. The same shopping malls where petitions were signed are where suicide bombers will enter. The echoes of the gunshots will be heard in the same squares where the protestors stood.
The democratic system is premised on trust in the masses’ wisdom. We believe that the collective is wiser than its parts and that at the end of the day it shall make the right choices and take the right decisions. The Israeli street took this notion one step forward and now it also manages its own managers and leads its own leaders.
The street’s approach to Gilad Shalit is an amazing moment of solidarity and a much less amazing moment of total lack of faith in our elected leadership. Yet when we review the five years of the Shalit affair, it’s hard to blame us.