Making a Farce of Democracy

A Kadima spokesmen would no doubt refer to the upcoming primary as a festival of democracy, but in actuality it is no more than a farce of democracy.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on August 5, 2008.)

A foreign observer landing in Israel for the first time these days, and seeing the Kadima party gearing up for its primary with great fanfare, would surely think that the country was entering a political contest comparable to the recently concluded race in America between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The Kadima spokesmen will no doubt refer to the primary as a festival of democracy, but in actuality it is no more than a farce of democracy.

Kadima is essentially a defunct political party. It never really existed, but took on a virtual existence without ever establishing a political identity when Ariel Sharon broke away from Likud and took with him a number of hangers-on. Its membership roll – those who are entitled to participate in the coming primary election – has been packed with thousands of recent recruits, many of whom have no connection with the party and no intention of voting for it in the next Knesset election. But they will participate in the primary election that Kadima candidates insist will determine who the next prime minister of Israel will be. That is making a farce of democracy.

Swimming against the current of public opinion, doing cartwheels in order to avoid going to elections they know they are going to lose, Kadima politicians are hoping to squeeze another two years of ministerial posts out of the current political mess, by maintaining an alliance of all those who know they will go down to defeat in the coming Knesset elections.

So who are these candidates who insist that they have the qualifications to be Israel’s next prime minister? They are, all four of them, Olmert’s cohorts, who participated in the decisions that led to Israel’s defeat in the Second Lebanon War, and stood by him when the full measure of the fiasco had already become clear.

They may have read the Winograd Report, but they act as if it didn’t exist. Whatever gave them the temerity to believe that, having taken part in that failure, they are qualified to deal with the defense problems facing Israel? What’s more, they have since consented to the cease-fire with the terrorists in Gaza, and made the mistaken judgment to trade Samir Kuntar for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, in disregard of the fate of Gilad Shalit, Ron Arad, and soldiers who may be abducted in the future.

They were all supporters of uprooting 8,000 Israelis from Gush Katif, and using the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces to perform this ugly task. Is that the report card they intend to present to the voters on election day? No, they don’t have to when facing the small number of voters that have been recruited onto the Kadima membership roll. Those issues do not seem to really concern them.

It is a sad commentary on the Israeli political scene that Olmert was not forced to leave political office because of his failure in the Second Lebanon War, but rather that it took the police investigations to show him the door. This failure of the political system can be directly attributed to those Kadima MKs who at the time were handpicked by Sharon and Olmert for the Kadima Knesset list. They might have not been expected to be run-of-the-mill politicians, and to demonstrate a minimal degree of independence and integrity when witnessing a government that was failing the people of Israel. But not one of them stood up to declare that he or she was not prepared to be a part of this facade.

And the “senior” coalition partner, the Labor Party? With a few exceptions, they also went along docilely. And Shas? As long as they received the budgets they demanded for their institutions, they did not seem to care about anything else. That to our shame is the Israeli political system at the moment.

No punches will be pulled in the Kadima primary that will be played out before the small number of Kadima electors. Tzipi Livni has brought in the “boys from the ranch” to give her strategic advice, the ones who so ably sold the Israeli public the hogwash that uprooting the settlers from Gush Katif would make Israel more “Jewish and democratic.”

Shaul Mofaz has hired Arthur Finkelstein to do the same for him, a gun for hire to anyone prepared to pay the price. In the weeks to come we shall be inundated by so many spins that most of us won’t know if we are coming or going. The Kadima ministers and Knesset members will be dancing on the grave of this defunct party, while Olmert continues as the country’s prime minister.

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