Tuesday July 22, 2014
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22.07.2014
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Kadima's collapse continues as Olmert stays away
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Dan Margalit

Born in sin, dying in disgrace

Kadima was pronounced brain-dead a long time ago, but on Wednesday MKs Dalia Itzik, Ronnie Bar-On, Yaakov Edri and Marina Solodkin signed its death certificate.

Itzik was initially bent on plowing through. She went on a mission to save the party, contacting former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former party leader Tzipi Livni, then current party leader MK Shaul Mofaz. Somehow she always came back to Olmert. She even announced the creation of an election campaign headquarters at his bureau. She was not bothered that he was a convicted criminal who was also standing further trial for accepting bribes.

When Olmert realized it was time to end this charade and put an end to the speculation over his return to politics, it finally dawned on her that it was time to start packing; she would take time off from politics. There has always been a cloud of suspicion hovering over Kadima due to the repeated allegations of white-collar crimes. No other party has had so many of its officials go to jail, and there are more on the way.

The party gave Israel the reckless Gaza Disengagement Plan in 2005 without first reaching a deal with the Palestinians. (Then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon created the party shortly after the Gaza pullout to deal with its political aftermath.) As the governing party, it was justified in launching the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, but its handling of both was disastrous. The party was born in sin and buried in disgrace. No one is mourning its loss.

Normally, the story of a party like Kadima being cut short by its travails would generate a great deal of attention. But Itzik, Bar-On, Edri and Solodkin chose to announce its death very close to the Central Elections Committee's deadline for submitting Knesset candidate lists. This guaranteed that they would not have to explain themselves since Israelis would be preoccupied with all the other the hustle and bustle surrounding all the other parties and their emerging lists. This helped the four departing members effectively shed some of the disgrace they had accumulated.

We have never had such an uninspiring, cynical, dicey and hostile campaign, even though every political system sees some combination of all those traits. This is true in a democracy and most definitely in a dictatorship. But 2013 is unique in that these features have overwhelmed the system. The masks have been taken off, as have the gloves, with all candidates up in arms. Until the filing deadline at 10 p.m. Thursday, internal party squabbles will go on, sparing no one. But after the deadline passes, the infighting would serve no purpose and thus ground to a temporary halt.

The parties will somehow dry their tear ducts and get rid of their wrinkles, hide their imperfections and take the battle to the other parties. But the inner strife would resume once the elections are over. Here is why.

For the first time since founding his party, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman may have a real legal battle ahead of him if the attorney-general follows through with his draft indictment. Yair Shamir, who occupies the party's second earmarked slot on the joint list with Likud, is the kind of politician who does not relish scandals and does not like to wage them out in the open. (His father, the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, did not like them, either.) But if Shamir does not go astray and remains true to his convictions, he might challenge Lieberman's despotic rule over his party members. Lieberman, who handpicked Shamir for the coveted slot on the list, may have created, by his own action, a hard core of potential opposition inside his party.

But that will be dealt with down the line. In the meantime, there are two emerging inner-party political fist fights. One is in Shas, between former head Aryeh Deri and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who both covet the party's top job. This will likely turn out to be one of the most intense and protracted battles ever waged in Israeli politics. The second one is in Labor, where Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich will try to quash the opposition led by her archrival MK Amir Peretz.

Those who vote for these parties should know that they are voting for "a house full of feasting with strife" (Proverbs 17:1).

For now at least, the approaching deadline will give the public a much-needed respite from all the squabbles. A weekend breather. Come Thursday's deadline, the public will finally see which letters are assigned to represent each party at the polling stations. This alphabet soup might become slightly diluted if the last-minute merger talks between Yachimovich and Livni's Hatnuah ("The Movement") produce a joint list.

Voters will have 48 days to decide on the slip they will put into the ballot box. With all the politicking set to take place once the votes are counted, it would be safe to say that even on the morning after the elections, Israelis will be denied the luxury of each citizen sitting "under his vine and under his fig tree" (Micah 4:4).

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