Analysis: System failure

The basic ideologies of Kadima and Israel Beiteinu were incompatible from the start.

By ARIK ELMAN
May 31, 2006 22:37
2 minute read.
Avigdor Lieberman Israel Beiteinu 298.88

Avigdor Lieberman 248.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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No one was truly surprised when, after the music of coalition negotiations stopped, Avigdor Lieberman was the one left without a chair. After all, the basic ideological positions of Kadima and Israel Beiteinu were incompatible from the start. Nevertheless, or so went the conventional wisdom on the "Russian street," there would be a Russian-speaking representative at Olmert's table. Marina Solodkin, the quintessential new immigrant in Israeli politics, was courted and elevated by Ariel Sharon, and even more so by Olmert himself in the run-up to elections. Sharon promised her 10th place on the list; Olmert pushed her up to sixth. As March 28 neared and the situation in the polls worsened, Kadima leaders threw caution to the wind and proclaimed Solodkin the next absorption minister. So when the not-so-glorious results came in, even the most cynical Russian observers - who realized that with 29 mandates, Kadima wouldn't be able to deliver on such outlandish promises as civil marriages and constitution - firmly believed that the decade-long tradition of a Russian presence at the seat of government would not be broken. It was. The reaction of the immigrant press and the community it serves was unanimous. What irked the commentators and the journalists most was not only Solodkin's plight but the fact that the abrupt change in policy and the pressing need to appoint Ze'ev Boim instead of her weren't even explained. The well-oiled propaganda machine of 'Russian Kadima" disappeared into thin air. Two out of three surviving Russian MKs clammed up, and Ze'ev Elkin, a political novice and a personal appointee of the prime minister, was left holding the bag and found himself in a TV studio delivering promises which never came true. As one commentator joked, Kadima must have broken some kind of record, "from esteemed and supported to alienated and despised in one day flat." During yesterday's parliamentary debate on the lack of immigrant representation, the prime minister and his associates rightly pointed out that the true attitude of Kadima toward the Russians would be measured not by twists and turns of political careers, but by real deeds of its government. But this argument flies in the face of the whole Russian-Israeli experience. Since the Great Aliya began 16 years ago, Russian immigrants learned one bitter truth - the system would never work for them unless it was poked and prodded by someone who was dependent on the Russian vote for his political survival. Moreover, cleaning up the mess of a decade and a half of discrimination and neglect could prove to be one task too many for the truncated party of Sharon's heirs. On top of this, to get his message out, Ehud Olmert will have to push through the wall of ill-will, growing by the day courtesy of nine Russian MKs in opposition. Right now, the outlook - for both sides in this unnecessary mess - looks decidedly grim.

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