Middle Israel: Kadima's only salvation

1306-middle.jpg (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Like children watching a ball game, Kadima's lawmakers are exposing their lack of ideas, plans, conscience and self-respect. Even now, as their leader heads toward public bankruptcy while one of his would-be successors remains speechless as a goldfish and the other babbles like a drunkard, the ruling party itself is demanding nothing of its next leader. Had there been some honesty and organization in Kadima, it would have long ago demanded of its prime-ministerial hopefuls to take stands on all central public issues. It's basic. For instance: Considering that the purpose of Tzipi Livni's talks with the Palestinian Authority is an agreement, it follows that at some point she abandoned the idea of unilateral retreat from the West Bank which she originally championed. Her party deserves to know when and why she changed her mind. Or religion: How does she feel about ultra-Orthodoxy's war on conversion? Does she agree with Ariel Sharon's insistence, back in 2003, that ultra-Orthodoxy be distanced from the conversion process because it stands in the way of the national interest, or does she agree with Ehud Olmert's recent removal of Haim Druckman, the rabbi whose concern for the converts irked ultra-Orthodox rabbis? Or the legal system: Where does she stand on the struggle between Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and the Supreme Court? If she supports Friedmann, why didn't she lead a similar effort when she was justice minister, and if she is against Friedmann's reformism, why doesn't she make that stance plain? Had she been a born leader, Livni would not have been afraid to voice views and defend them, regardless of the costs. Leadership is not about "managing the country," as Olmert once insisted; it's about giving it direction and inspiration. WITH LIVNI one might still hope that she actually has views, even if it should take some serious digging to find them. With Shaul Mofaz, such archeology won't work, as he is evidently clueless about most major issues. Expecting from him an informed and clear - let lone original and insightful - position on matters such as school reform, hospital funding, municipal power, the Falash Mura's future or the method by which Supreme Court justices are selected is futile. Never mind that there is no indication this career soldier is paying thought to such issues; in recent days he has demonstrated a kind of political autism and economic amateurism that should have made his party colleagues - had they added up to a party - first shut his mouth, then withdraw his candidacy. For heaven's sake, how irresponsible and clueless does a former defense minister have to be to announce that "we will have to attack Iran"? It would have taken no economist, accountant or broker, just a diligent reader of The Marker, to warn Mofaz in advance that such a statement, regardless of its diplomatic dereliction, would rattle the already volatile commodity markets and make the whole world and its sister fume. Mofaz evidently had no idea it was in his loose lips' power to jerk oil prices up nearly 10 percent overnight, for the prosaic reason that he has spent practically his entire career in the military and therefore lacks economic knowledge. Of course the problem with his statement transcended economies; it also meant provoking the US, where few things today are more anathema than oil's appreciation, and of course it meant damaging a prospective Israeli attack's surprise element. Most alarmingly, it compromised the wise and consistent Israeli refusal to publicly discuss action in Iran - part of a broad understanding that the less we talk the better we will be able to shoot, if and when. Now this man wants to be prime minister? Of Israel? Did he consult anyone before disrupting so adventurously, and egoistically, this no-talk policy? Does he think he is alone in all this, that he can spray bravados at Damascus, Teheran and the financial markets with impunity? That all this is frighteningly amateurish is needless to say. It is also transparent that even in terms of the expediency which drove it, this verbal diarrhea's impact will be limited. Even if it helps Mofaz win Kadima's leadership, where will he then lead, considering his now-manifest dereliction, insensitivity and ignorance? Why does Kadima stomach this kind of raw ambition, sadly failing to realize that if it's up to him, Mofaz will lead it where he led the IDF when he installed Dan Halutz as its commander? Because the Sharonism on which it was theoretically founded, that pale imitation of France's Gaullism, never meant much to the assorted opportunists who congregated around Olmert as he succeeded Sharon. The more the Kadima succession struggle unfolds, the more it becomes clear that this party's problem runs deeper than Ehud Olmert's personal situation. A party that is not even informed, let alone consulted, before its leader's appointment of a justice minister with a contentious agenda; a party that is told nothing about a plan, publicized as its own blueprint, to unilaterally pluck some 200,000 Israelis out of their West Bank homes; and a party whose leader embarks on ambitious talks with Syria while not even informing his second-in-command - is not a party, or even a debating club. It's a front, a charade and a masquerade: a front for criminal politics, a charade of public presentation and a masquerade whereby several dozen people pretend to think, care and lead though they know their engine is dead and their time is up. Not everyone in Kadima is bad. Some of its lawmakers are far more wise, idealistic and humble than its current and would-be leaders. People like world-renowned scientist Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, former OC Women Corps Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amira Dotan or economist Michael Nudelman probably no longer give a damn about whether they will personally survive as legislators; they have accomplishments outside politics and don't need this or that political patron's benevolence to earn a living. If such Kadima lawmakers would now announce that they back the early election bill - then the political nightmare we are living through will finally draw to a close. True, it may prove to be their last political deed, since Kadima - whether led by the goldfish or the babbler - is likely to shrink into oblivion. Yet such a cry will make them loom tall as whistle-blowers whose daring and initiative put an end to the tragedy, farce and menace that Kadima has come to be; and while at it they will have restored the value that Kadima has so thoroughly bastardized: leadership.