Mofaz’s missed opportunity: He’s the real sucker

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.

July 22, 2012 23:36
3 minute read.
Shaul Mofaz

Shaul Mofaz 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

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 opportunism.

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 represent.

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 cohesion.

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 world.

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.

In 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 haredi apologist.

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.

Related Content

October 18, 2019
A permanent profession


Cookie Settings