HERE IS a story that has never been told before:
When the Titanic was well out into the Atlantic, its crew mutinied.
They demanded higher wages, less cramped quarters, better food. They assembled on the lower decks and refused to budge from there.
A few old hands from the engine room tried to extend the scope of the protest. They claimed that the captain was grossly incompetent, that the officers were nincompoops and that the voyage was bound to end in disaster.
But the leaders of the protest resisted. "Let's not go beyond our practical demands," they said. "The course of the ship is none of our business. Whatever some of us may think about the captain and the officers on the bridge, we must not mix matters. That would only split the protest."
The passengers did not interfere. Many of them sympathized with the protest, but did not want to get involved.
It is said that one drunken English lady was standing on deck, a glass of whisky in her hand, when she saw the huge iceberg looming. "I asked for some ice," she murmured, "but this is ridiculous!"
FOR A WEEK, or so, all the Israeli media were riveted to the goings on at the UN.
Ehud Barak had warned of a "tsunami." Avigdor Lieberman foresaw a "bloodbath." The army was prepared for huge demonstrations that were certain to end in unprecedented violence. No one could think of anything else.
And then, overnight, the bloody tsunami faded like a mirage, and the social protest reappeared. State of war Out, welfare state In.
Why? The commission appointed by Binyamin Netanyahu to examine the roots of the protest and propose reforms had finished its work in record time and laid a thick volume of proposals on the table. All very good ones. Free education from the age of 3, higher taxes for the very rich, more money for housing, and so on.
All very nice, but far short of what the protesters had demanded. The almost half a million demonstrators some weeks ago did not go out into the streets for that. Economics professors attacked, other economics professors defended. A lively debate ensued.
This can go on for a few days. But then something is bound to happen -- perhaps a border incident, or a settlers' pogrom against a Palestinian village, or a pro-Palestinian resolution at the UN -- and the whole media pack will veer around, forget about the reforms and return to the good old scares.
In the meantime, the military budget will serve as a bone of contention. The government commission has proposed reducing this budget by 3 billion shekels -- less than a billion dollars -- in order to finance its modest reforms. Netanyahu has voiced agreement.
No one took this very seriously. The slightest incident will enable the army to demand a special budget, and instead of the suggested tiny reduction, there will be another big increase.
But the army has already raised hell -- quite literally -- describing the disasters that will surely befall us if the diabolical reduction is not choked in its cradle. We face defeat in the next war, many soldiers will be killed, the future investigation committee will blame the present ministers. They are already shaking in their shoes.
ALL THIS goes to show how quickly national attention can swing from "protest mode" to "security mode." One day we are shaking our fists in the street, the next we are manning the national ramparts, resolved to sell our lives dearly.
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