Politics is a kind of art. It can be abstract and it can be avant-garde. There are politics that get slammed by critics, and there are politics that get rave reviews. Political maneuvers are just like a visit to the museum: There are those who can admire the exhibits for hours and there are those who stare at the exhibits and don't understand what they're looking at.
Thus was the case with Kadima's move to join the coalition two months ago: There were those who saw it as a brilliant maneuver and there are those who called it a dirty trick. And just as quickly as Kadima joined the coalition, it withdrew. Politics aficionados must admit that Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz's brief spin in the coalition will probably be taught in political strategy classes and will likely be the focus of many conversations within elite political circles.
Once the picture became clear, it was obvious that Mofaz never intended to legislate a mandatory ultra-Orthodox military draft or to reform the system of government. His only goal was to extricate his party from the certain doom that awaited it in the imminent election — originally scheduled for September 4. Mofaz needed time. He needed people to talk him up. That is precisely what he got. One of last week's polls gave Mofaz 10 Knesset seats — an unprecedented high since he assumed leadership of the party.
It is now clear that the only version of a mandatory ultra-Orthodox enlistment law that Kadima would have supported would have been the version that prompts the ultra-Orthodox parties to quit the coalition. To Mofaz, that would have been the only way to demonstrate success. When he realized that this was not going to happen, he got up and left. The negotiations between Kadima and Likud over the last two weeks were nothing more than a charade. The decision had already been made. All that was left was to carefully time the announcement.
Mofaz got his 15 minutes of fame. But will he get another 15 minutes, or will he be forgotten in 15 seconds?
He was right to focus on ultra-Orthodox enlistment — it's a hot topic right now, and the sector it appeals to is the large center. The only problem is that there are other players in the ultra-Orthodox enlistment arena.
Mofaz launched this maneuver by himself, but he will have to fight many others for the credit — like newcomer politician Yair Lapid, Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman and even his predecessor at the helm of Kadima, Tzipi Livni. Mofaz may soon learn that unlike his time as Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, in the political realm the spoils don't always go to the victor.