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Tahrir Square, Tel Aviv

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Message Uri Avnery
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AMRAM MITZNA is a nice guy. He is modest and radiates credibility. He reminds one of the late Lova Eliav, the Secretary General of the Labor party who quit the party in disgust. Like Eliav, he has a lot of practical achievements to his credit -- Eliav built the Lakhish area villages in South-Central Israel, Mitzna volunteered to administer the remote town of Yerucham deep in the Negev.

"Buji" Hertzog is also a good guy. He is a scion of a genuine Jewish aristocratic family, in the positive sense of the word; his grandfather was a Chief Rabbi, his father the President of Israel. A person whose deeds as Minister for Welfare speak for themselves -- even though he has an unfortunate habit of running -- after every action -- to tell his (American) friends, as the Wikileak papers disclose. (This is an allusion to a classic Israeli joke: "Why do Israeli men finish so quickly? Because they can't wait to run and tell their friends.")

Amir Peretz is an interesting character. His life story as an immigrant from Morocco is impressive. He made the mistake of his life when he demanded the post of Minister of Defense and made a mess of it -- but people can learn from their mistakes.

Shelly Yacimovich is an assertive woman, a convinced feminist. The social misery of the destitute and downtrodden is burning in her bones, as we say in Hebrew. She believes that it is possible to have a party devoted entirely to these matters, forgetting for the time being unpopular and troublesome problems like peace. That is a mistake -- he (or she) who runs away from the Palestinian question, the Palestinian question will run after him (or her). But she will learn.

All these are candidates for the leadership of the Labor Party. Any of them can, perhaps, arrest its deterioration and keep the votes it got at the last elections, and perhaps-perhaps even add two or three seats.

So what?

THE PITY is that this would change almost nothing. Power would remain in the hands of the Right. The balance between the blocs -- Right and Left -- would not be any different.

Those who once put their faith in the ascent of Kadima have by now learned that Kadima is not a leftist party, nor even a center party -- unless the center has shifted far to the right. Kadima is Likud B, pure and simple, led by a woman who grew up in a Likud home and is lacking, so it seems, any political instincts. Her party includes, besides parliamentary zeroes, several racists whose proper place is between Likud and Lieberman, and some fugitives from Labor, whose proper place is nowhere.

The Labor Party can be rehabilitated. Some parties resemble the phoenix and can return from the grave. But Labor is an old bird without any feathers. For most of its long life it was the ruling party, and it has never recovered from that. Even in opposition it behaves and talks like a governing party from which the government has been stolen. It has no strength left to renew, rebel, storm ahead. It was and remains a federation of professional functionaries. Such a party does not make revolutions.

Under the leadership of any of these candidates, it will not fill the huge gap in the Israeli political system. It will not inspire the Israeli Tahrir Square. It will not start the revolution, without which Israel will continue to march in lockstep towards the abyss.

THE PEOPLE who gathered in Tahrir Square were not the remnants of the old parties. Sure, they were there too -- the Wafdists, the last of the Nasserists, the Communists, the Muslim Brothers. But they did not provide the ardor, they did not light the flame which is brightening the sky above the entire Arab world.

In the square, completely new forces appeared out of nowhere. To this very day they have no name, except the date of the original event -- January 25. But everyone knows where they came from and what they look like. For lack of a better label, they are called "the Young Generation." They are a cluster of hopes and aspirations touching all spheres of life. They are the resolve to create "another Egypt," entirely different from the Egypt of only yesterday.

THERE IS, of course, almost no similarity between Egypt and Israel. The Egyptian uprising can serve us, at most, as a metaphor, a symbol. But the principle is the same: the longing for "another Israel," for the Second Israeli Republic.

The setting up of a new political movement is an act of creation. There is no recipe for it, like "Take 2 Oriental Jews, 1 Russian, half a rabbi, stir well..." It doesn't work that way. Neither will something like "Take the remnants of the Labor Party, add a spoonful of Meretz, mix with half a glass of Kadima..." Won't work.

A new movement of the sort that is needed has to come from nowhere. From the vision and determination of a group of young leaders with a new world-view that suits the needs of Israel's future. A group that thinks in a new way, sees things in a new light, speaks a new language.

That happens once in a generation, if at all. When it does, it is visible from afar.

AT THIS moment, there are at least half a dozen groups in Israel which are planning this revolution. Perhaps one of them will succeed. Perhaps not, and the spark does not catch till some later date. As the young Jewish rabbi from Nazareth said: "You will know them by their fruit."

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)

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