Knesset building 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The latest in a series of political crises afflicting Kadima has made the
problems of being a centrist party in our political system abundantly
The two veteran parties, the Likud and Labor, to a large extent
like the Republicans and the Democrats in the US represent the two mainstream
positions on cardinal issues such as security and socioeconomics.
ideological room between them is simply too narrow and insubstantial to allow
for a third party.
Disingenuous attempts have been made – particularly by
Yair Lapid, head of the next up-and-coming superfluous centrist party, Yesh Atid
– to paint Labor chairwoman Shelly Yechimovich as a radical socialist who is
opposed to free market enterprise, while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has
been portrayed as a heartless neoconservative.
But in reality the
differences between Yechimovich’s social-democratic platform and Netanyahu’s
more conservative stance are not so marked, and are similar to the differences
that split Democrats and Republicans. Kadima has never fully articulated a
distinct socioeconomic platform, while the nuances distinguishing Lapid’s
socioeconomic platform from Yechimovich’s do not justify the creation of a
On security issues, Kadima has not brought to the
political discourse any new ideas either. Kadima supporters such as Ariel
Sharon’s confidant and adviser Dov Weissglas, claim that Sharon created the
party because he felt shackled by the Likud’s ideological constraints. After
implementation of the pullout from the Gaza Strip and parts of northern Samaria
in 2005, Sharon was fast losing support within the Likud, though his popularity
soared among the general public. This was only natural since the sort of
unilateral dismantling of Jewish settlements – without receiving any Palestinian
commitments – was diametrically opposed to the Likud’s ideology.
it was Labor’s Amram Mitzna – not Sharon – who led his party into the 2003
national elections on a platform of unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
If implementation of the disengagement was so important to Sharon, he could have
returned to Labor, where he began his political career.
To this day
Kadima’s stance on security is indistinguishable from Labor’s. Chairman Shaul
Mofaz’s peace proposal – which calls for the immediate establishment of an
independent, unarmed Palestinian state in part of the West Bank and Gaza and
entering negotiations with Hamas, if the terrorist organization wins another
Palestinian election – could easily be adopted by Labor.
parties, such as David Ben-Gurion’s Rafi, Yigael Yadin’s Democratic Movement for
Change, Avigdor Kahalani’s Third Way, and Yitzhak Mordechai and Amnon Lipkin
Shahak’s Center Party, never represented substantial political or ideological
positions not given expression in either the Likud or Labor. Ego and hubris
seemed to be the forces behind their creation.
History has shown that
centrist parties are not only superfluous, they are detrimental to political
Over the past few decades the size of the two largest
political parties has steadily decreased from around 40 MKs on average to fewer
than 30, in large part due to the creation of various short-lived centrist
Election reforms such as the raising of the 2-percent threshold
for entry to the Knesset and the institution of regional elections for some
Knesset seats would go a long way toward improving political
But so would a good dose of humility. And it might even be in
politicians’ best interests to cooperate.
A recent survey found that a
Center-Left party (Labor) led by Yechimovich, Lapid and Tzipi Livni would garner
40 Knesset seats.
A Knesset resting on two strong political parties – one
Center-Left and one Center-Right – would foster a more stable political
environment while at the same time give expression to two clear political
With talk of early elections in the air, serious thought should
be given to taking the steps necessary to make a quasi-two-party system a