Ever since the Arab Spring made its presence felt more than six months ago, the assumption has been that its only relevance to Israel is in terms of security: whether compliant dictatorships in Egypt and Jordan will give way to more assertive governments that espouse a tougher line on the Palestinians and, by extension, on Israel.
But is the Arab Spring jumping over the confessional divide into the Jewish state? Both the vast size of the demonstrations in cities throughout Israel at the weekend and the flavour of the slogans, some urging people to "walk like an Egyptian", suggest that many Israelis feel every bit as frustrated as Arabs with the running of their country.
On the surface of things, the grievances of people in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Syria on the one hand, and in Israel on the other, have little in common. The former countries are, or were, autocracies while the latter has been a democracy since its creation in 1948. Moreover, politics in Israel tends to be defined by opposition to a perceived Arab threat. Resistance to Palestinian demands has been integral to the appeal of Benjamin's Netanyahu's right-wing coalition. Conversely, the opposition Labour Party has suffered at the polls for its more flexible line on the Palestinians. Now a growing number of Israelis are refusing to be defined by their position on the Palestinians. Calling themselves "new Israelis," they are tired of being told to keep quiet about growing poverty and about what they see as a squeeze on middle-class incomes that is occurring while a privileged few get rich.
Some on the left in Israel may criticise the protests for ignoring the all important Arab-Israel dispute but, either way, the rules of the political game in Israel are changing and a new kind of politics is being born. That can only be healthy.Reuse content