OpinionIsrael News

What do the protesters really want?

It is inconceivable that all of the opposition to the current government is just about new elections or even replacing the prime minister.

Demonstrators in Jerusalem call for the release of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip, May 7, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Demonstrators in Jerusalem call for the release of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip, May 7, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef is chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at: dougaltabef@gmail.com.    

There has been an immense investment in protesting the current Israeli government, its leadership and its policies. Front and center, of course, is rabid hatred of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is closely followed by the demonization of “extreme” or “far-right” leaders, meaning of course, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who are clearly pulling the marionette strings of power, thus assuring their own continued tenure.

The indictment of the government is more aesthetic than it is politically detailed: The prime minister is only interested in his own survival, and all that is being done is for political purposes and represents a betrayal of the interests of the Israeli people.

OK, so we get the part about the rabid hatred of Netanyahu. But what exactly is he doing or not doing that constitutes a betrayal of the interests of the people?

This is never quite articulated and, since nature abhors a vacuum, it leaves open to interpretation what exactly the protesters have in mind. The choice of words in the slogan “Bring Them Home Now” clearly, and I suspect by design, implies that freeing the hostages is up to us: That it is within our power and ability to have them returned.

Of course, then, the failure to achieve that must be laid at the doorstep of the Israeli leadership, which is guilty of abandoning the hostages. So, the implication is that our leadership is unwilling to do what needs to be done to “bring” the hostages home.

What exactly would need to be done?

Well, some of the protesters are honest enough to speak their deep-seated conviction: pay any price. Repeat the disaster of the Gilad Shalit deal, magnified by the reality that there are 120 hostages rather than just one.

This demand, of course, completely reverses the government’s approach to the hostage situation, borne out in the first negotiated deal, in which military prowess and achievement prompted Hamas to come to the table.

With all the media pile-on in support of the protesters, this strategy of militarily bludgeoning Hamas into releasing hostages is obscured and, worse, denigrated.

It certainly appears as if the focus on defeating Hamas is increasingly regarded by protesters as a self-serving way of keeping the government in power rather than the desire of most Israelis.

Beyond this warped thinking, there is the above-mentioned self-evident condemnation of the prime minister as a failure and someone unworthy of his position.

Fair enough. Now, the question is, what besides the displacement of the PM is the agenda of the protesters? Surely, just having a new election cannot be the reason why protesters block highways.

This is not the League of Women Voters on steroids. There surely must be more to the wish list than a new election. Well, for example, what would the protesters want to come out of the new election besides, of course, the unseating of the premier?

Here is where things get a bit murky and probably deliberately so. The protesters want to appear to be public fiduciaries, so they would demure from discussing what they are hoping to see come from the elections they so desperately desire.

Is all this a shill for the return of Yair Lapid, perhaps mixed in with Benny Gantz and even Yair Golan? In other words, is this a preliminary pep rally for the formation of a left-of-center coalition, that might again include the Ra’am Party?

If that is so, and it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that it is, what would this coalition see as being in the interests of the Israeli people? Or better stated, would such a coalition advance something it believes should be in our citizens’ interests, whether our citizens think so or not?

After all, the protesters have received aid and comfort from the Biden administration, which is certainly not above telling us what is in our best interests.

So, is it reasonable to suppose that the real agenda is a political platform known to organizers but likely not known to the vast majority of the protesters on the street? Is it also possible that the agenda is focused on attaining the wet dream of the Biden administration, as well as a key reason why the administration would make common cause with protest leaders: to advance the vision of the two-state solution?

The willingness to pursue this pipe dream cannot possibly be directly articulated, though protest leaders do invoke the need for “national solutions.” Right now, they would likely parry the idea, if not outright deny it, and would denigrate anyone who would suggest that this was their agenda.

However, this goal might actually be integral to the push to bring down the government. A willingness to support a two-state solution could account for American support for the protesters and the lack of transparency as to their objectives.

Supporting a two-state solution is not evil, but it is massively naïve and, yes, stupid. The fact that it enjoys very little popular support is not a strategic problem for the protest organizers, since the Left has always disdained the sensibilities of Israel’s “deplorables.” However, discussing it now, before the appropriate coalition is in place, would be self-defeating.

So, let’s just make sure that this horrific government is replaced, so we can all rest easier and feel more righteous. And as to what happens then, well … I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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