It took little more than two months for Shaul Mofaz to remind us just why he and
his Kadima Party are unfit to govern.
Having vowed in March that he would
never join Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government, Mofaz reneged and did
exactly that in May, “for the welfare and future of the State of Israel.” Having
formed a grand coalition under the banner of the national interest, Mofaz now
leaves the government under the dark shadow of political
Playing to the crowds over universal conscription, Mofaz has
rejected historic societal change in favour of vote-grabbing populism. In doing
so, Mofaz has betrayed the political center that he purports to
The issue at the heart of these latest political machinations
is of unquestioned importance. Equalizing the national burden is a long overdue
necessity. Not only are the current exemptions granted to the haredi and Arab
populations unfair, immoral and ultimately unsustainable for society at large,
but meaningful national service would also be of huge long-term benefit to both
of these communities. Both Mofaz and Netanyahu correctly highlighted the need to
end this untenable status quo when they joined forces in May. However, their
approaches to solving the issue differ greatly, revealing wholly conflicting
priorities and motivations.
It is worth remembering that in May,
Netanyahu could have chosen to go to the polls, which would most likely have
delivered a huge victory for Likud. Instead, he chose an alliance with Kadima,
with the sole motivation of instituting meaningful change. Netanyahu understood
then, as he appears to now, that a broad, consensual mandate is the surest and
safest path to change if we are to maintain a semblance of social
And so, when it came to replacing the “Tal Law,” Netanyahu
sought to integrate haredim into the IDF and national service programs with
their consent. He proposed a gradual integration, whereby some yeshiva students
would be enlisted at age 18, others at 23. Netanyahu recognized that a 64 year
old system must be changed gradually, not overnight, if the transition is to be
successful. By exhibiting sensitivity toward haredi values and the community’s
unique lifestyle, he has conveyed a message of partnership to the ultra-Orthodox
By contrast, Mofaz has doggedly stuck to his insistence on a
farreaching decree, mandating the draft of every yeshiva student at age 18. He
has done so in the name of equality, but such a plan will only be viewed as a
broad attack on the haredi world, accentuating the divisions in Israeli society,
rather than bringing about a sense of shared purpose.
Mofaz has claimed
that Kadima’s departure from government was necessitated because “there were red
lines that I was not ready to cross.” It is hard to see how Mofaz’s stance can
truly be a matter of principle, when his stubbornness over the details of draft
age has resulted in the wholly unsatisfactory draft system that he himself
opposes, remaining intact.
Rather than grasp an historic opportunity to
reform conscription and with it improve our societal structure, Mofaz has opted
to make a statement. He will no doubt claim to be the “true” standard bearer of
the universal draft, having supposedly sacrificed power for principle.
reality, though, Mofaz has underscored yet again why he and Kadima are not
credible leaders of our country.
Mofaz’s decision to lead his party out
of government is couched in the language of beliefs and morality, but has far
more to do with electability.
Tellingly, Mofaz accused Netanyahu of
choosing “the interests of the minority over the majority.”
It is exactly
that majority which Mofaz hopes will be within his grasp at the next election,
so long as he appears to champion their interests and portray Netanyahu as a
As for Netanyahu, it is not the interests of a minority
or majority which has fueled his actions over replacing the Tal Law. As a
responsible head of government, he has sought a solution which is in the best
interests of the country as a whole, and which all parties just might be able to
live with. Meanwhile, Mofaz’s failure to place the greater good above political
expediency illustrates exactly why he should be the last leader of a Kadima
Party born out of political opportunism.
The writer served as bureau
chief to Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and is currently president
of 4H Global.