800-Pound Gorilla Straggles After Israeli Protesters

At his blog South Jerusalem, Gershom Gorenberg writes:

The question of the week last week was: Would the protests fade or grow? … On Saturday night, the moment I got to downtown Jerusalem, I knew: The previous week’s demonstrations had been a warm-up act. … The crowd couldn’t fit into Paris Square near Bibi Netanyahu’s official residence anymore. The river had burst its banks.

Even more encouraging

The torrent swept away the feeling of every Israeli for years, that it’s me … who can’t get by, can’t work enough to pay enough, can’t remember what it felt like to feel good here. … I think that any reporting of what’s happening in Israel that doesn’t include the shocked reborn ebullience of the crowd has missed something.

In response, Haaretz reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu,

… told Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, the head of the panel of experts who will talk with protest leaders, that he understood it was necessary to change economic policy. But Trajtenberg went further, telling Netanyahu he had to change his fundamental positions. Netanyahu agreed and said he had read a new book about how Herzl [considered the father of the state of Israel – RW] adapted himself to changing circumstances.

Trajtenberg reportedly said (Reportedly? Did he or didn’t he, Haaretz?):

We must leverage this protest for real change, it’s burning in my bones.

Up to this point, protesters have been careful to avoiding touching a couple of issues with a ten-foot pole. But for real change to occur, the 800-pound gorilla needs to be led to the center of the protests and allowed to grunt, belch, roar, and beat his chest with his fist full of manifestoes. First up, government spending on homes for the settlers as opposed to the rest of the public. Haaretz again:

The leaders of the Yesha Council of settlements … know it is only a question of time before Peace Now [the prominent Israeli peace movement currently urging a boycott of settlements – RW] and … the media remind people without homes of their own just how many housing units the Housing and Construction Ministry has built in the West Bank, compared to the extent of public construction in all other areas.

Once that dam has been breached, justice for Palestinians, especially the siege of Gaza, will roil the waters further. The protests, as hopeful and joyous as they’ve been, could turn into an angry torrent, full of treacherous cross-currents.