Bye Bye Kadima

This party is composed of chameleon-like politicians, renegades from the Likud and rejects from Labor, in addition to some naive novice politicians dedicated to the cause of disengagement.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on September 6, 2006.)

Soon it will be time to say good-bye to Kadima, this incongruous political party that, like a flash in a pan, suddenly appeared on the Israeli political scene, brandishing a single issue platform – disengagement, unilateral withdrawal, convergence, realignment, or whatever else you want to call it – claiming that this was the panacea for all of Israel’s ills, and a recipe for the existence of Israel as a “democratic Jewish state” that would become “a fun place to live in.” Nothing resembling this phenomenon has ever been seen on the Israeli political scene, or for that matter in other democratic countries.

Spin doctors and snake-oil salesmen succeeded in marketing it to much of the Israeli public. It will surely be fertile ground for future doctoral dissertations in political science and mass psychology. There have been new-born parties that appeared at election time, here and elsewhere, but they have never before succeeded in winning an election. The time is approaching – better sooner rather than later – when this party will leave the political scene. What began as a political “big bang” will be going out as a whimper. Curtain time is approaching for Kadima.

This party is composed of chameleon-like politicians, renegades from the Likud and rejects from Labor, in addition to some naive novice politicians who believed there was nothing more noble than answering Sharon’s call to enlist in the cause of disengagement. Unilateral withdrawals served as the common ideological denominator for the men and women on Kadima’s Knesset list. That, in addition to the public opinion polls predicting a great victory for Kadima in the elections, and the knowledge that by a wave of the hand by Sharon or Olmert, without having to electioneer among the non-existent rank and file of the Kadima party, they would be assured of a seat in the Knesset. Now that the concept of unilateral withdrawals, in Lebanon and Gaza, has been exposed as a no-brainer for all to see, and the leaders of Kadima – Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni – have been shown to be incompetent to fill leadership positions in times of crisis, the only question that remains is how much longer Kadima will hang in there and continue to lead Israel at this crucial time.

There is the possibility that some of the Likud renegades in Kadima, rueing the day on which they decided to throw in their lot with that ill-starred political creation, will return to the ranks of the Likud. And that some of the Labor rejects, now eating humble pie, will be mercifully accepted into the ranks of Labor. And that a politically reshuffled Knesset will bring down the Olmert government and vote confidence in a new prime minister and his government. Or else, perish the thought, new elections. This political uncertainty is painful to contemplate at a time when Israel faces a most serious crisis, which is the direct result of the Olmert government’s handing Hezbollah a victory in Lebanon. Voices, silent for many years, are being heard in the Arab world that Hezbollah has now again demonstrated that it is possible to defeat Israel by the use of force. It is a relatively short distance between this conviction and aggressive action against Israel. Some advocates of the Olmert government already argue that just because of the approaching danger, the Olmert government should remain in power so that it will manage the coming crisis without wasting any time. That would be a grave error. Israel can certainly not afford another mistake like the mismanaged Lebanon war.

But wait a minute, we hear some commentators saying. This leadership is surely a bad lot, and they certainly made a mess of the war in Lebanon, but there is nobody better around. “The cupboard is bare,” as one of them wrote. To them, and to the Israeli public in general, I would suggest that they concentrate their thoughts on the following questions: Is there really no better candidate for the position of prime minister than Ehud Olmert? Is there really no better candidate for the position of defense minister than Amir Peretz? Is there no better candidate for the position of foreign minister than Tzipi Livni? Is there no better candidate for the position of finance minister than Avraham Hirchson? And one could continue with these questions almost down the entire Cabinet list.

We all know the answers to these questions. The only question that remains is whether a coalition can be put together in the present Knesset which will support a new government that will field better men or women in these key positions. Nobody but the most cynical politicians will deny that this is the call of the hour. Is it a vain hope that such cynical politicians do not constitute a majority of Knesset members at this time?

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