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Photo: Yaron Brener
Attila Somfalvi
Photo: Yaron Brener
Israel’s political revolution
Op-ed: Following protest, Israeli politicians will have to chart new course to stay in power

There are moments in the life of a nation where it’s clear that the deck had been reshuffled and new order had been created. At this time it’s clear that the tent protest gave rise to such order; a social and humane order that seeks to enable Israel’s citizens to purchase an apartment, make ends meet and live in dignity. The new order also shakes up the political system and our politicians must chart a new course; those who fail to do so shall be punished.

 

Saturday night, some 300,000 people conveyed a clear, unequivocal message: The politicians’ right to forget the public, ignore it and disparage it had been revoked.

 

Anyone who ever thought or dreamed or predicted anywhere that 300,000 people would rise from their couches and hit the streets one day should stand up now. Let us see the person who predicted that an evening shall come where hundreds of thousands of Israel’s sleepy and indifferent citizens make it to the “square” for the largest, most impressive civilian show of force in the state’s history.

 

Hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets for one reason only: They’re fed up. They don’t know who they wish to topple or send packing, and they also don’t know who they wish to crown. However, they know what they no longer want: Exploitation, fraud, spins and fairytales about leftists who wish to topple the government, coupled with never-ending threats about Iran’s nukes and Hamas’ missiles. These people no longer want pompous speeches or false promises, or party lists comprising opportunistic Knesset members who have no shame about being elected and then seeking to move to another party the next day (and yes, in the next elections the party lists will also make a difference. This time it won’t just be about Tzipi or Bibi.)

 

The 300,000 people who left their homes Saturday night are demanding what the fathers of Zionism promised them: An enlightened, sensitive State that cares about its citizens. A State that cares about the big picture yet doesn’t forget the individuals; the common people pulverized by the tax burden and endless privatizations. They have nothing to fear because they are the silent majority; the same silent majority that for long years sat home and refused to head to the polling stations because it had no one to vote for. The silent majority is suddenly crying out that it will decide who to crown in the next elections; who will take power and who will head to the opposition.

 

In Israel’s democracy, only one day decides: Election Day. The immense energy concentrated Saturday night in central Tel Aviv will be exploding at the ballot boxes in the next elections. Israel’s citizens will come out to shape their fate and future. They will be able to decide what that future holds. Benjamin Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak, Avigdor Lieberman and Eli Yishai should start counting Knesset seats, because the force that hit the streets the other day may cast them aside, punish them, and replace them with others.

 

Labor party’s chance?

The masses who hit the streets Saturday will determine, in the next elections, what kind of policy we’ll be seeing here. They will be able to decide which kind of state, which kind of leadership, and what kind of priorities shall prevail here. The macro and privatization policy can be replaced overnight by a policy of compassion and care and by a macro policy that does not forget the micro. Some 300,000 people informed the politicians the other night that they are not spineless or clinging to polls. They are an active, kicking, biting and deciding force.

 

The seemingly social-minded Labor party (reminder: the one that up until recently was a member of Netanyahu’s government) has no reason to celebrate yet. The public won’t quickly forget what this party did and does not forgive its longtime willingness to be part of governments that blatantly disregard its promises; a party that was prepared to endorse any decree or political trick as long as it remains in the government. However, this is Labor’s big opportunity, a party that up until a few weeks ago was considered a dead horse and now looks like the lesser of evils.

 

As to the prime minister, he must wake up and realize that “everything isn’t alright,” that tricks and shticks won’t work here anymore, that the public reacts to every trick and ruse, and that sympathetic journalists aren’t enough to change reality. Netanyahu must realize that reality is not what he saw on Channel One, which aired a news report about a remote village at the height of Saturday’s protest.

 

The prime minister knows that the masses don’t want his head, yet, but wish to affect his thinking and see Netanyahu changing his socioeconomic spots. The public wants hope; the same hope that Netanyahu showed great expertise – during two terms in office – in burying. Should he fail to restore hope and change his ways, he and his friends – not only in the coalition but in the opposition as well – will be hit hard.

 

Some 40 Knesset seats, at least, are up for grabs at this time, waiting for someone who can lead the revolution forward, into the halls of the Knesset; forty Knesset seats that at this time appear to be spread out, disorganized and unfocused. Aryeh Deri, for example, cannot count on them. He also cannot be silent, at this junction of all times, and wait to see where the wind blows. Deri’s silence appears too calculated, and the public is fed up with calculated politicians. It wants honesty, now.

 

The people who hit the streets Saturday night spoke out: Things will be changing, and the politicians will no longer be able to get comfortable in the Knesset seats for four years, indifferent to the people’s demands. The public regained power the other day, and it wants answers. Not threats and not promises; a change.

 

 

 

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