Ha''aretz is the daily newspaper most likely to be read by Israel''s economic, intellectual, and political elites. It is also predictably left of center, and arguably the country''s best newspaper. Its political slant is consistent with its readership. Not for Israel a clear connection between economic status and right wing politics. For the most part, the elites are left of center on social issues and their willingness to be accommodating to the Palestinians.
If so, why is there not peace with the Palestinians? As one of the elites who reads Ha''aretz and would like to be accommodating, the reason that comes to mind is that Palestinian elites are not inclined to accommodate Israel.
Enough on that issue. The Palestinians have disappeared from our agenda in the presence of social protests. Occasionally we remind ourselves that September is just around the corner. The IDF is considering calling up reserves just in case, but that is three weeks away.
The Marker is the daily economic and business supplement that comes with Ha''aretz. The picture on the top of today''s front page conveys both an image of some young people enjoying a happening, and the outright rage of others who want to take over the country. The headline under the picture is "The law meant to speed up building has also added to the protests."
Protesters claim that the reform will benefit building contractors and their wealthiest clients more than young couples. It is not clear if this represents a careful consideration of the measure, if it is simply a partisan outburst against the Prime Minister who promoted the issue, or if demonstrators expect contractors to build homes without making any profit.
While some of the articles in this issue of The Marker endorse goals of the protesters, there are two items in particular that pose serious criticisms. One is an interview with a senior social scientist who devoted a career close to the top of National Insurance (the equivalent of Social Security) to improving conditions for needy Israelis. The headline is, "It is not clear to protesters that for a welfare state it is necessary to pay taxes." While the expert supports, in general, the goals of the protesters, she worries are not sufficiently aware of the need to maintain the well being of the country''s economy in order to help its people.
Another article reports recent findings of the Bank of Israel that challenge one of the protester''s major complaints. Its headline and principal message is, "The middle class has enough money to finish the month (with savings left over)."
Ongoing protests, now several weeks old, remind me that politics is a profession that must be learned. It is not like medicine or law, with detailed and lengthy formal education, including many dull details that need to be memorized. It is more like the clinical training and initial experience that comes after the classroom lessons of physicians and attorneys.
Many who win elections do not make the grade. Those who do, see a big picture, and recognize the numerous elements having to be taken into consideration when participating in decisions about important issues. As several Israeli prime ministers have been fond of saying when facing criticism from the public, "What you see from here is not what you see from there."
Experience does not guarantee success. This is politics, and there is no decision above criticism. However, a quick jump up to high position is likely to be more dangerous than helpful. Witness the bluster and failure of Barack Obama in dealing with the Middle East. He went from being a first term, first year Senator to a presidential campaign and then to the White House.
The young people and others demanding change from the streets of Israel are even less well prepared than Freshman President Barack Obama. Protesters do not have experienced staff personnel capable of warning them away from the most obvious mistakes.
After the first days of enthusiastic support for a new spirit, Israelis with more experience have taken to the media to warn protesters that they cannot achieve everything, that change will take time and cost money. And most likely the taxes paid by middle class protesters will have to increase in order to pay for the services they are demanding.
Obama''s record shows that advisers are not always successful in moderating the activity of an inspired President. Aroused Israelis are still shouting for more, and denouncing those of their allies who are urging restraint.
There is at least one Internet friend who is unhappy with my notes meant to convey what is happening on Israel''s streets.
However, it’s more difficult for those of us who are politically active on Israel’s behalf, when this internal “dirty laundry” overwhelms the discussions of “physical security” on which all of our efforts are directed. The point: I want to understand what happens within Israel, though I have no right, or intent, to involve myself with that; but, I’d prefer the “real world” to focus on the external, and existential threats.
In the long run, I hope the internal activities aren’t what threaten Israel’s longevity!
I hope that my response is satisfactory.
Dirty laundry? Who said it is dirty? It is the working of politics in a society that is intensely political, and tolerates--perhaps reveres--argument. . . .
Israel has never been a one-issue society. The Sparta you have in mind is Greek, not Jewish. And as you know, we had serious problems with the Greeks.