Analysis: Better never than late?

Kadima's bylaws make it nearly impossible to overthrow the party leader.

MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni confirmed the obvious Wednesday morning when she advanced her party’s leadership race.
The Kadima constitution, drafted to fit a dominating leader like former prime minister Ariel Sharon, sets the party’s primary for immediately before a general election, despite the inability to know when an early election would actually take place.
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Kadima’s bylaws, which could match those of ruling parties in Israel’s neighboring countries, make it nearly impossible to overthrow the party leader. A leadership race in Kadima requires the support of the party leader.
So it was up to Livni to decide what timing worked best to hold the race, as she likes to say, “for the good of the country, the party, and then myself, in that order.”
This is not the place to judge what is best for the country, and the race would have been challenging for her whenever it was held. But how she handled the timing for her party’s sake can definitely be questioned.
Livni certainly did not have to hold the primary when her party rivals wanted it. They already called for advancing the race nearly three years ago.
There was nothing wrong with her ignoring calls to advance the race after MK Shelly Yacimovich was elected Labor leader. After all, holding the race so close to the summer socioeconomic protests, which revealed Kadima’s weakness on those issues, would not have been good for her, or for the party.
Livni also was under no obligation to advance Kadima’s race immediately after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu moved up the race in Likud. Her passing a resolution in her faction that barred even discussing advancing the primary until May was, perhaps, a bit extreme, but that was her prerogative.
However, Livni absolutely had to make sure that Kadima’s primary would be held before journalist Yair Lapid entered politics and started taking away her party’s votes and activists, as well as its status as the darling of the left-ofcenter elites. In just one week, 4,000 people volunteered to help Lapid’s new party, which has not even been formed.
Livni looks silly asking for volunteers for her campaign on her Facebook page, using an e-mail address strangely similar to the one Lapid has right under his own Facebook picture. The similar e-mail address is probably a coincidence, but the fact is every move made in Kadima from the moment Lapid entered politics will now be made in his shadow.
Lapid has changed the dynamics of the race from a contest for the undisputed leader of the center-left bloc to a competition over who would be more likely to save Kadima.
Recent polls have predicted that the party that could have won close to 50 seats under Sharon could end up in the single digits. If Lapid drafts a strong platform and a group of stars for his party list, he could deal a death blow to Kadima.
Labor was also eulogized until Ehud Barak split the party a year ago Tuesday. But as a relatively new phenomenon that lacks Labor’s roots, Kadima still has to prove its staying power.
The old adage “better late than never” is almost always true. But when it came to setting the date for the Kadima race, it may turn out to have been “better never than late.”