Answers, please!

The public wants to know where the Kadima leaders stand.

As Kadima primaries draw near and the atmosphere heats up, public statements made by the candidates referring more to their personal qualities, qualifications or lack thereof seem more suitable for a popularity contest than for a substantial choice. The real question is not which candidate will pick up the phone faster at three a.m., but rather what kind of decision that phone call will entail and how it will be reached. The question is one of substance. Have Kadima's candidates digested and adopted some of the recommendations put forward by the Winograd report? What soundly-based alternatives will stand before them when called upon to answer the "hot line"? Will the National Security Council, established by law, now be given enough tools and authority to be able to provide relevant, up-to-date and serious alternatives allowing the next prime-minister-to-be and the cabinet to reach the right decisions? More importantly, the public at large and Kadima's voters in particular are entitled to know where each one of the candidates stands on a wide array of issues impacting the future of our society and our fate in this region. Moreover, it is important to point out that decisions on such issues will have to be taken in the very near future. On the future of our society, for instance: What budgets will be allocated to education? And how are we going to treat the elderly, approximately one third of our society? On political issues: What is going to befall our negotiations with the Palestinians? Will they be stalled after PM Olmert's departure, or does each of the candidates still mean to reach a real agreement by the end of 2008? We would like to hear, loud and clear, opinions and commitments on issues touching upon the core of our existence: the future of the welfare state, our borders, Jerusalem, settlements. Will the future prime minister - she or he - carry on negotiations with Syria? Well-informed sources tell us that such negotiations have been serious, that there is agreement on over 85% of the issues, and that the Syrians are eager to continue. What will our response be? We all know the price to pay for peace with Syria; we also know some of the advantages and dividends for Israel. Are Tzipi Livni, Shaul Mofaz, Meir Sheetrit and Avi Dichter willing to hand over the Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace? How about the Arab Initiative, launched in March 2002 and which has been collecting dust over the past six years? Only a couple of weeks ago Marwan al-Muashar, former Jordanian ambassador to Israel and former foreign minister, reminded us in an article published in the Israeli press the importance of this document, for it proposes recognition of Israel and full normalization of relations with us by all Arab States. Agree with it or not, the candidates owe us a serious response to these proposals. Do the candidates stand behind Kadima's action plan stating that "the choice between each Israeli citizen's right to live wherever he desires and the necessity to maintain Israel as a Jewish State demands giving up part of the Land of Israel"? What is each candidate's political agenda, after the founder of their movement spoke of "painful concessions" and evacuated settlements? Will this entail further evacuations? In this context, are they ready to allow settlers who wish to leave the settlements now to get compensation? In the United States, currently engrossed in an election flurry, the presidential nominees are quizzed about every last detail of their political platform. Americans care about such issues as their future president's energy policy, his opinion on education or the war in Iraq and his religious convictions. His approach to health care and contingencies regarding Iran are of essence as well. The candidates are queried about these time and again, and later held to their word. So why isn't it like that here? Our candidates have thus far avoided addressing any of these questions. Perhaps they believe they can get away with the "silence treatment" regarding matters of grave importance. After all Ariel Sharon, founder of their party, was famous for keeping silent for long periods of time. But it won't work this time, and shouldn't. There is simply too much at stake. The writer, a Labor MK, is a regular blogger on JPost.com's BlogCentral.