Former Kadima kingpin Haim Ramon has been saying for several months that he'd like to start his own party, to very little reaction. In an Army Radio interview with Razi Barkai on Tuesday he repeated the assertion, and it suddenly spread like wildfire through the political arena. It's all about the timing. Two Kadima Knesset members, Nino Abesadze and Shlomo Molla, have just said they are leaving the same coalition where they sent their leader Shaul Mofaz, and MK Robert Tiviaev appears to be on his way out as well.
Kadima was born in sin. It's founder Ariel Sharon fell into a coma at the height of a criminal investigation against him. Former Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson was convicted and left to rot in jail. Ehud Olmert is the defendant in two trials at the same time. Kadima is on its last legs, whether in the coalition or the opposition.
The political war games made everything go to hell. Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to stabilize his government and therefore forestalled early elections. So far, his move has been a disappointment to him.
MKs Shelly Yachimovich and Isaac Herzog of Labor once again called for early elections on Tuesday. Except that now, even early elections would be too late. Shaul Mofaz, who captured leadership of Kadima from Tzipi Livni, hoped that being part of the coalition would strengthen him. So far he has only reaped bitter fruit.
Kadima is in even worse shape now than during its failed tenure in the opposition. The Netanyahu-Mofaz crisis cannot be repaired for now. And even if it were possible, the "Suckers Camp" leadership will not allow them to sweep the issue of universal military conscription under the parliamentary rug.
The ultra-Orthodox and Arab refusal to enlist is easier to solve than it seems. On the issue of drafting Israeli Arabs, even Yohanan Plesner, who will submit his report Wednesday, has been duped by the mantra that there is an infrastructure in place for enlisting haredim, but not Arab youth. On the contrary. Enlisting haredim is problematic due to genuine Halachic rulings regarding mehadrin (stringent standards of) kosher food, gender separation, and men listening to women sing. Arab youth do not have these kinds of issues. All they need to do is enter the municipality building in Nazareth or Taibe and sign up for three years of public service, and that's it.
That would actually be the easy part, as long as the government showed willingness to enact personal sanctions against Arab youth who dodge public service, like closing universities to them or withholding driver's licenses. In this matter, Avigdor Lieberman is right, not Kadima, which on Tuesday repositioned itself by claiming that it too favors drafting Arabs.
In the final analysis, drafting haredim is at the heart of the matter. The level of the public's determination or apathy on this issue will determine the composition of candidate rosters for the next Knesset (Will Yair Lapid run with Livni? Will Kadima still be a player?) as well as the timing of general elections.
The situation as it stands now between Netanyahu, Mofaz and Lieberman — with Livni and Lapid looking in from the outside — suggests that the ties between the prime minister and Shas are liable to destroy Kadima, which enters and leaves the coalition as if possessed. These ties could also badly damage Netanyahu. All coalition partners have an interest in continuing the dialogue. The results of Wednesday's Plesner report will signal whether this stands a chance.