Electionscape: Over-egging the Kadima pudding

Other party leaders would love to have Sharon's problems, but there is such a thing as too much success.

anshel pfeffer 298.88 (photo credit: )
anshel pfeffer 298.88
(photo credit: )
Ariel Sharon will try during his 24-hour hospitalization tomorrow to forget the two headaches that he'll have to contend with next week: finalizing Kadima's list of Knesset candidates, and appointing new ministers to replace the Likud quartet forced to resign by Binyamin Netanyahu. Other party leaders would love to have Sharon's problems (too many Knesset seats and cabinet portfolios to go around), but there is such a thing as too much success. Take, for example, the fracas expected to break out over the foreign ministry about to be vacated by Silvan Shalom. Shimon Peres will probably be humiliated if his stature as senior statesman (at least in his own eyes) is not recognized by an appointment. On the other hand, Sharon's right-hand woman Tzipi Livni expects her newfound seniority within Kadima to be affirmed, especially since the other two major Likud defectors, Ehud Olmert and Shaul Mofaz, already hold senior posts. Peres is being wooed by Labor to return home, and a public snub to his fragile ego might just help Labor to succeed. On the other hand, Livni is going to head the party's PR campaign and Sharon needs her in good spirits. Besides, Peres flying off to meet Mahmoud Abbas and Kofi Annan could frighten off some of Kadima's more right-wing voters. But the cabinet appointments affair is a small bother next to the Knesset list. Sharon seems in serious danger of over-egging the Kadima pudding with the wealth of talented candidates he is pouring now into his mixing bowl. In a normal political party, the mid-level positions are populated by party hacks eager to get ahead and willing to pay their dues to their political bosses and supporters base. For these reasons, the average back-bench MK is rarely very independent and can usually be relied upon to vote according to the party line and keep shtum over dirty political deals. (The "Likud rebels" who uprose against Sharon over the last year were an exception to this rule.) The new recruits being brought into Kadima to fill in all the predicted Knesset seats didn't go through the party meat grinder. They are independent figures with their own accomplishments and views. The moment the party adopts a platform, some of them are bound to sound off reservations, which are bound to get more vocal once they actually reach the Knesset and find out how things work there. One potential troublemaker is Dr. Dan Ben-David. The Tel Aviv University economics lecturer has radical views on almost every issue of government, which he has set out in a series of articles for Ha'aretz. He is in favor of dramatically reducing the number of government ministries to about ten. He also proposed putting the education system, always a political fiefdom, under a new, non-partisan authority. It will be interesting to hear what he will have to say when the division of spoils begins in the next government. Sharon apparently took a liking to the charismatic academic a couple of months ago when he heard him speak at the Globes Business Conference, but he probably didn't read the column five months ago in which Ben-David called the prime minister "a grandmaster" playing "a warped game of chess" who has "accumulated over the last few decades a wealth of experience in lighting fires, whose extinguishing cost us dearly." Sharon left the Likud to get away from his critics. He seems to be importing new ones into Kadima.