One of the more surprising outcomes of the coalition talks that are being finally wrapped up this weekend was the announcement on Wednesday that Kadima and the Gil Pensioners Party had not only reached a coalition agreement, but had also decided to form a joint parliamentary bloc which might even end up as a full merger between the two parties.
Gil is acting exactly the opposite of what we would expect from a new and ambitious party, eager to exploit its electoral success. Instead of thinking how to impress voters by extracting concessions from the ruling party and showing off its independent agenda, the pensioners basically swore allegiance to Ehud Olmert and Kadima, committing themselves to vote with them on every issue.
Gil's negotiator Eli Goldschmidt announced that "as part of the ruling faction the pensioners have much more influence than as a separate party of seven MKs."
Goldschmidt is a former Labor MK himself and should know better. In a coalition, the smaller members enjoy power disproportionate to their size, thanks to the leverage they have when there is important legislation and crucial decisions.
The pensioners have now suborned themselves to Olmert's agenda, relinquished their unique pressure spot and received nothing in return that the didn't get as part of the regular coalition agreement.
The amalgamation of the two parties is even more surprising when considering the fact that Gil's astonishing achievement was widely seen as a protest vote against politics as usual and the bland centrist platform offered by Kadima.
There is nothing that turns Kadima into a party more partial towards golden-agers (besides Shimon Peres). Both Labor and Meretz have much more comprehensive plans to help pensioners, nor is there anything to suggest that Gil's voters favor Kadima over its rivals on the Right and Left.
But one fundamental similarity between the two parties goes a long way towards understanding their throwing their lot in with each other. Neither of them have a past and they can't be sure of having much of a future.
Kadima and Gil voters were fed up with the Likud, Labor and Shinui, so they found an alternative, but as yet there is nothing and no one to command their loyalty to the two parties. By the next election, the novelty will have worn off and they're going to have count for something more substantial.
Rafi Eitan realizes that one-issue parties have a limited lifespan, and just a month after the elections he's decided to give Olmert what he needs: a larger parliamentary bloc to push through Kadima's agenda, preserving both parties' chances of survival.
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