Look past the technology

Centrist voters will choose between an extreme right Likud list, the ideological emptiness of Kadima, or Labor, which has a clear and sensible direction for the country.

livni got the blues 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
livni got the blues 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The first question surrounding Kadima's primaries on Wednesday is whether their computer system proves more effective than that of Labor or the Likud. But even if the party does pull off a technical triumph and prove that politics can successfully enter the digital age, the more serious question still remains: What does Kadima really offer the Israeli electorate? Indeed, the real surprise of this election campaign so far is not Labor's slump in the polls - which, with a good campaign, can be reversed to some extent - but the fact that Kadima still exists. The party was founded after Ariel Sharon split the Likud over his decision to disengage from Gaza, taking with him the sensible part of the Likud and some malcontents from Labor. After Gaza and Sharon's stroke, Kadima flew the flag of convergence under Ehud Olmert's leadership in the 2006 elections, but any talk of unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank died an immediate death following the disaster of that summer's Second Lebanon War. Since then, Kadima has failed to provide any sense of direction for the country as its leaders fought a losing battle among themselves to seek a way to depose Olmert without risking elections. Just what does Kadima stand for? Is it a party of the Left, par excellence, as marked by Olmert's November speech to the Knesset to mark Rabin's assassination, in which he said: "The truth will force us to rip away many parts of our homeland in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights." Or is it the party of Shaul Mofaz, who sent oil prices sky high in the early summer when he openly talked of the need for Israel to attack Iran if Teheran continues its plan to develop nuclear weapons. And where does the party's leader, Tzipi Livni, stand on this scale? Does she share Olmert's newly discovered worldview of the need for major Israeli concessions to the 1967 lines if there is ever to be peace, or does she stand much more to the right? Livni's comments last week to Tel Aviv high school students that Israeli Arabs should move to a Palestinian state once it is established would not have disgraced Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman. AND HER RECENT posturing over the need to attack Gaza following the return of Qassam fire against Israel shows a serious lack of intellectual consistency. The foreign minister repeatedly stresses the fact that she led the internal opposition to Olmert over the Second Lebanon War - even though she lacked the political courage to take her opposition to the logical and principled extreme of resigning after the prime minister failed to stand down following the publication of the sharply critical interim Winograd Report. The Second Lebanon War was a classic case of the use of Israeli military might without any serious consideration as to how this military adventure would end. An IDF attack on Gaza right now would inevitably lead to a re-run of the Second Lebanon War, with missiles raining down on the southern part of the country instead of the North. And once the IDF had successfully reconquered the Gaza Strip to stop the rocket fire, what then? Would Livni want to re-instate the occupation? If not, how would Israel withdraw? Surely she cannot be suggesting that Israel invade Gaza, suffer whatever losses such an operation would entail, and then just hand the keys to the Strip back to Hamas. If Livni has a magic solution for the problem of Gaza, she has had plenty of time around the cabinet table to remove it from her sleeve and push for its implementation. On domestic issues, Livni lacks any clear ideology or program. As Israel enters a recession, what are her plans for pulling the country out of it? Will a Kadima-lead government seek to expand the public sector and invest billions in infrastructure programs to provide work for the increasing number of the unemployed or will a cabinet headed by Livni want to reduce government expenditure, slash bureaucracy and hope to unleash the power of the private sector to revive the economy and domestic demand? As of now, we have no idea. ON THE other hand, the Likud primaries last week provided us with a good idea of where that party stands: way to the right of the Israeli public. Even if one ignores Moshe Feiglin's initial triumph, any party that has a top 10 in which Binyamin Netanyahu stands out as a paragon of pragmatism and moderation is a party that has lost touch with the mainstream Israeli voter. The Likud's current strength in the polls stems from Netanyahu's undeserved popularity compared to Livni and Labor's Ehud Barak, but once the election campaign gets under way in earnest this is likely to change as Netanyahu, as always, begins to sweat under pressure. Then the centrist voter will be faced with a choice of either voting for an extreme right-wing Likud list, the ideological emptiness of Kadima, or the center-left Labor Party, which has a clear and sensible direction for the country, both diplomatically and on the economic-social front. Kadima members might enjoy their technological democratic experience this week, but the party that was founded in Ariel Sharon's giant shadow is unlikely to prosper in its current format. The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.