Talia Kainan

Agents of Chaos, Grapes of Wrath

The coalition continues to holdout, insisting on pushing through a reform that has brought Israel to the brink. It seems that despite the escalation of tactics in the public outcry against the reform, there is little that can grab Netanyahu’s attention, nothing will dissuade him in his unrelenting march towards madness: Israel, divided and powerless.

This war of attrition between the government and the people is coming to head, and we are becoming accustomed to daily demonstrations that continue to constitute a thorn in the side of our public diplomacy – it looks bad. Headlining the major news outlets, the whole world is looking at the spectacle in the streets. Forms of resistance are varying and new and creative tools continue to crop up. In lieu of the workers union in Israel (the Histadrut) taking action, a forum of Israeli businesses have independently decided on striking, causing a partial economic shutdown on the day of the Reasonableness Clause vote. An Occupy Wall Street-esque field of tents have taken residence in Sacher Park near the Knesset. Prominent former security personnel are chaining themselves in front of the Knesset. What else may we come to expect from the work of Innovative Israel’s finest?

The past few days have brought out the ugliest of emotions in many – government ministers and members of Knesset have spit out their most venomous comments – Minister of Transportation Miri Regev threatening that pilots suspending their volunteer reserve duty should be jailed amid mass resignation. Many carry a heavy heart over the reality and future of Israel.

While Israel has weathered many crises, both military and civilian, few have been directly engineered by the government in power, with the ability to halt the impending doom at a moment’s notice. Many writers compare the situation to the disengagement from Gaza in 2005 and the subsequent protests, however a perspective may find our predicament closer to the days before, and immediately following the Rabin assassination.

Yitzhak Rabin’s family mourn at his funeral.
Government Press Office (Israel)

Israel is divided – one side feels that they are being steamrolled by the government that wishes to change the nature of the country, while the other side feels that the protests are unjustifiably bringing the downfall of the country. Each side demonizes the other, attempting to characterize and highlight the opposite opinion by the worst of its proponent’s qualities.

Perhaps, in a rare optimist hope, we will be presented with an opportunity to redefine our standards of public conduct – as one of the notable non-violent protests of the last decade, perhaps we may redefine and enshrine rights of freedom of speech, free press, the right to organize, peaceful assembly, and other legal changes relating to the protest. Perhaps, in an even more radical wish, this period will bring about an antithesis of peaceful discourse and both sides will come to the table, with the intent of listening and understanding, hearing and seeing each other. In a beautiful world, our strong disagreement now will make way for effective communication and honest discussion around the values of Israel.

I am not the first to raise this idea – many organizations and persons have seized the moment to push the concept of a constitution for Israel, continuing the promise in the Declaration of Independence, that will encompass Israel’s values and legal promises to the people.

Maybe, in our lifetime, we will be astounded by the grace and good nature of people. Maybe, in a brave personal choice, we will begin the process of rehabilitating the Israeli nation, building more bridges and opening our hearts. It all starts with trust and respect.

That may be a tall order these days, asking too much of the cynical critics and exhausted activists. To achieve the rainbow hand holding described, we will need a strong pivot in the way of politics. We need gestures of goodwill and surprising partnerships to symbolize any shift in direction. If we are at the precipice, dangling over the dangers of polarization and civil unrest, our energy must be funneled into investments in our future. Some may feel they exhausted all avenues, and so this request is of a challenging nature: continue to hope for a better Israel, that the sun will come out tomorrow, and instead of burning us it will light the way to a bright future.

About the Author
Talia is currently a law student at Hebrew University and served in the International Branch of the IDF Spokesperson's Unit. Born and raised in Jerusalem.
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