The fairy tale that Kadima leaders have been trying to tell the public in recent weeks is that after the primary everything will be fine. The polls will soar, the public will rally around Kadima and its status as a worthy ruling alternative, and its natural candidate for leadership will be restored.
Fairy tales can come true, but usually they just fall to the floor of reality and shatter to pieces. The members of Kadima, who are waking up to a new dawn, are likely to discover that “that which has been is that which shall be.” The bitter truth is that Kadima lost its relevancy long ago. Its collapse did not stem only from its weak leadership, but also from its thin platform.
Over the last three years, Kadima leaders have been busy trying to convince the world that it is a centrist party – not Left, not Right, not capitalist, not socialist. In practice, what happened was that the party lost its flavor, its scent. Sitting in the opposition, the Knesset’s biggest party became the Knesset’s department of cheap gimmicks. It remained silent on important issues, or alternately found its members at each other’s throats without any ability to create a singular front.
Kadima doesn’t have a clear message on security or diplomacy, and certainly not on economic or social issues. It jumped on the anti-ultra-Orthodox bandwagon at a late stage and in a pathetic manner. The party that, when it was the ruling party, oversaw the re-establishment of the Religious Services Ministry, renewed child benefits (which serve mainly the ultra-Orthodox community), and overturned the requirement to teach core studies at religious schools, can now only look on with jealousy as Yair Lapid and Zahava Gal-On eagerly siphon off Kadima voters.
The person who led Kadima with confidence and determination directly into the wall was Tzipi Livni. Over the last few weeks the now-deposed chairwoman tried to lay the blame on everyone and their mothers. She complained of subterfuge and that her status as party leader had never been fully accepted. But in reality, by virtue of the Kadima by-laws and her significant majority in the party, Livni held substantive power. She could have done anything she wanted.
Kadima took a first step toward rectification on Tuesday. Livni didn’t lose, she was booted out with sticks and stones by her friends. The great white hope of a last-minute turnaround that would save Livni – and that many media outlets adopted in the days leading up to the vote – dissipated and disappeared. Livni can find comfort in the fact that the Israeli public doesn’t hold grudges. It has never said no to a comeback. The question now is whether or not she will have a party to come back to.