Early Wednesday morning, Shaul Mofaz scored a decisive victory over Tzipi Livni in the Kadima party primaries. From this point onward, he will be referred to as “Mr. Opposition.” It is doubtful now whether the government will let him continue to serve as chairman of the Knesset's influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
With expectations of a Mofaz victory proven correct, let us examine the implications, in ascending order of importance.
• Smaller parties like Labor and Meretz, whose confidence can be boosted by a small increase in votes, will welcome Livni’s ouster as a blessing. A portion of the public, though not enough to make a difference, will now give Labor party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich and Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On a second look. Enough to make these women happy, but not sufficient to alter the nation’s political map.
• Livni has said that there are things she’d like to do outside politics. Is that the path she will now chose? Either way, it is unlikely that she will be able to accept Mofaz’s leadership. If she manages to recruit seven MKs and form her own party, that would be a bridgehead toward finding new allies ahead of the next elections. An agreement with Ehud Barak and/or Yair Lapid seems out of the question at this point. But “this point” in politics is fleeting, and if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chooses not to hold early elections, there will be much room, and time, for political maneuvering.
• The Likud has succeeded in breaking up Kadima. That is the truth of the matter, even if in coming weeks Kadima gives the impression of being united. Mofaz is not interested in joining the current coalition now, even if he has won the support of Kadima MK and former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter, who supports the idea. Mofaz has an interest in establishing himself as a political alternative, and you can’t do that from within the coalition. Only a real national security emergency, as opposed to mere fear-mongering talk, might spur him to join the government. This could indeed happen, but isn’t in the cards for now.
• The rift within Kadima diminished the party’s ability and desire to press for early elections. Should Netanyahu choose to bring forward the elections, currently scheduled for October 2013, it would be for various reasons, like hoping to prevent a diplomatic crisis (with friendly countries) or a political crisis (within the coalition over next year’s budget) or even out of a desire to ride the bandwagon of the Tal Law reform, which is expected to be popular with a majority of the country's secular voters.
Wednesday morning ushered in an exciting new dawn for Kadima. But when the sun sets, Kadima will go back to its old gray self. With Mofaz at its helm, the party will have to work hard to get the public excited. Boredom is the enemy of any political opposition.