by Adam Keller
Someone in the wild Sinai peninsula took a decision and sent a big, well equipped squad to infiltrate across the border into the Israeli Negev, attack buses and cars and engage in running battles with soldiers and shoot and kill and kill indiscriminately. And presto, in one minute the agenda changed and the public mood changed into a state of emergency and war at the gate and in all communications media there was no more talk of social protests, nothing but terrorism and army and security issues.
It had been a difficult month for Prime Minister Netanyahu – truly, a very hard month. A Prime Minister under siege, caught in a bind. Tent encampments and more tent encampments sprouting up all over the country, demonstrations and protests and more demonstrations. The demands for affordable housing and for Social Justice and for a Welfare State occupy the center stage, and the Free Market economics which Netanyahu had worked so hard to foster since he was Finance Minister are suddenly cast into doubt.
What did he not try? He used sticks and he used carrots, he tried to entice the protesters with committees and benefits and rabbits drawn from the hat and he tried to castigate them as Leftists and pampered sushi-eaters, and they went on to protest and demonstrate and extend ever further the tent encampments and get their rallies to the peak of three hundred thousands in Tel Aviv. Just yesterday morning, the protesters arrived at the home of Eyal Gabbai, Nethanyahu's Chef de Bureau, and he spoke forthrightly and made it clear to them that the Free Market system will not change, and there will be no taxation on the rich and there will be no Welfare State in Israel. And these cheeky youths did not accept these clear clarifications from their government, and just announced that they will increase ever more their protests and demonstrations.
How, how to change the focus and move the public agenda in a different direction? Perhaps finally September will come and the Palestinians will go to the UN and demand to have their state and thus help to distract public opinion in Israel? But the big show at the UN is only due on September 20, how to get through another month until then? Besides, would even that change the tendency of public opinion? What if the Palestinians hold mass demonstrations in late September, without any violence, and demand to have some Social Justice, to be free in their country and no longer live under occupation – would this be enough to change the agenda? It might even get a bit of sympathy among Israelis.
But not all is lost, and relief for the harassed Netanyahu came from the usual quarter, out of the deserts of Sinai came the dramatic initiative to change the Israeli public agenda. And it so happened that Israel's fine security services had long since prepared a plan to liquidate Gazan leaders which just needed to be put into operation, and now put into operation it was forthwith, and all at once Israel's Air Force took off for Rafah and made the hit, an instant and huge success, and immediately afterwards could the Prime Minister make a full-blooded patriotic Address to the Nation people over all channels and offer congratulations to the brave soldiers and the valiant pilots and the diligent security operatives and deliver a stern warning to the Palestinians and offer condolences to the bereaved and wish the injured a speedy recovery and how great it felt at last to make a long speech without a single word about social problems, just like in the good old days. And of course, as soon as Gaza was hit, Israelis all over the South knew that the time has come to seek shelter and expect the worst, and indeed the Qassam and Grad rockets were not slow in coming, naturally prompting the Air Force to counter-attack on more Gaza targets and bring on more missiles on Israel the escalation is mutually escalating - and who would now dare demand a cut the in the defense budget in order to promote social causes?
But what the social protest activists do now in their tent encampments? Would they quietly yield to the changed agenda and meekly disappear from the scene? If that's what Netanyahu is counting on, he should think again.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|