When Kadima entered the Netanyahu coalition less than two months ago, it was clear that it would make every conceivable effort to leave an imprint on the government’s policy. After all, Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz’s main motive in joining the coalition was the very grim predictions of all the opinion polls regarding Kadima’s performance if elections were held immediately.

A positive record in office could only help.

For people like myself, who have an aversion to governments in which the extreme Right and the ultra-Orthodox can determine which policies are approved and which are rejected, the entry of Kadima into the government was – short of new elections – a reason for cautious optimism, since the move changed the basic balance within the coalition.

However, it was clear from the very start that whether this optimism would justify itself would depend on Netanyahu’s intentions, and on whether he really viewed Kadima’s entry into the government as an opportunity to adopt some earth-shattering policy decisions, or just as a means of avoiding early elections. We don’t really know whether Netanyahu is serious about issues such as replacing the Tal Law, and confronting the problem of the foreign workers and refugees in Israel, which are among the issues dealt with in his coalition agreement with Mofaz.

SOON AFTER joining the government, Kadima attacked these two issues (and several others) head-on. On the first issue it formed a committee, headed by MK Yohanan Plesner, that is to propose an alternative to the soonto- expire Tal Law, and with regard to the second it is about submit a comprehensive immigration bill.

Unfortunately recent developments regarding the proposals being prepared by the Plesner Committee suggest that at least Kadima’s initiative with regard to the haredim does not have much of a chance to come to fruition, unless, of course, Netanyahu surprises us and puts his foot down, as he did several weeks ago in the case of the bills that sought to enable Jewish settlement construction on private Palestinian land.

What happened with regard to the proposals the Plesner Committee is to issue shortly is that Yisrael Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi, who were members of the Plesner Committee, decided to withdraw from it because the proposals deal very thoroughly with the haredim, and only superficially with the Arabs.

There is no argument about the fact that eventually the Arabs of Israel will have to serve the state in the form of military service or civilian national service. However, this cannot happen as long as all of Israel’s Arabs are considered potential enemies, are discriminated against in almost every conceivable sphere, and are rejected out of hand as potential coalition members.

The fact that the National Committee of the Heads of Arab Local Authorities has raised proposals of its own for a change in the current situation (even if these proposals are unacceptable to most Jews and many Arabs) is a positive development that will need time to mature.

The case of the haredim is different. They are Jews in a Jewish state. They receive all the benefits the state has to offer, but for historical reasons are absolved from many of the duties it imposes. They are active members of the coalition, and they control the Knesset Finance Committee. Their numbers are constantly growing; from a few thousand in the early days of the state they have reached several hundred thousand today. Their status is an anomaly that the majority of the Jewish population refuses to continue to bear.

The Plesner Committee is about to make proposals that this majority – including the supporters of Yisrael Beytenu – is willing to adopt with both hands. But apparently Yisrael Beytenu, which must be aware of the fact that a policy of “all or nothing” will lead to nothing, prefers Arab-bashing to changing the status quo among the Jews.

We do not know what Netanyahu’s final position will be on this issue. As things look at the moment, he will apparently let the proposals of the Plesner Committee dissolve into thin air, rather than clash with both the haredim and Yisrael Beytenu. But maybe he won’t.

As to Kadima’s Immigration Bill, we do not yet know whether the Ministerial Committee on Legislation will support it. We do not know whether those who consider the bill to be too liberal (including Interior Minister Eli Yishai), or who simply do not want Kadima to be able to take credit for an important piece of legislation, will carry the day, or whether Netanyahu will intervene to ensure that a majority in the committee will support the bill.

Before long we shall know whether anything positive will come of Kadima’s entry into the government, or whether plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (the more it changes, the more it remains the same).

The writer teaches at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College and was a Knesset employee for many years.

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