Published in Israel Hayom, March 22, 2012
Incumbent Kadima leader Tzipi Livni yesterday launched a last-minute campaign aimed at scaring Kadima voters into voting for her in the party’s leadership vote next Tuesday. Kadima can’t exist without me, Livni warned. The slogan: “Without Tzipi Livni, there is no Kadima.”
This is, of course, ridiculous. With Tzipi Livni, Kadima has been practically wiped off the political map. Polls predict that the party would win only a paltry 12 seats if elections were held today, down from at its current 28 seats in the Knesset – which is almost a third of the parliament. With Tzipi Livni, Kadima has become politically irrelevant.
Livni has made many mistakes, and coming across as a whiner is one of them. Her harangues against Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Knesset always seem to have a wail about them, and she basically repeats the same mantra in every talk: ‘If only I had been in charge, then everything would have worked out. The peace process with the Palestinians would be zipping along and world would love us.’
Unfortunately for her, Palestinian behavior over the past three years makes this unbelievable, and the Israeli public isn’t buying it. Livni argued this week that Kadima without Livni “would merely be a second Likud,” and she may be right. But that is what most voters want. Likud is the real centrist party in Israel today, and a successful one at that.
Livni has taken to blaming Netanyahu for every ill-wind in the region, from the tensions with Turkey, to the deterioration of relations with Egypt, the rising price of oil and electricity, the missiles falling on our heads from Gaza, Ultra Orthodox extremists in Beit Shemesh, and confrontations at the United Nations.
But the Israeli public knows better. It knows that Livni is overreaching in her claims against Netanyahu. And it doubts that with her as Prime Minister everything would turn peachy keen.
Nevertheless, Livni may win the Kadima party leadership vote. She has the party apparatus behind her (led by Omri Sharon, Tzachi Hanegbi, Haim Ramon and Roni Bar-On) and may get the lion’s share of votes from the 25,000 Israeli Arabs and Bedouin who make up one-quarter of Kadima’s registered party members. Fourteen of the party’s MKs are backing Shaul Mofaz (to Livni’s 13), and Avi Dicter would clearly join the Mofaz leadership team too. But it is still an uphill battle for Mofaz.
Even if he loses, I expect Mofaz to claim the Kadima moniker for his own faction (which under Knesset rules he can do, since most Kadima MKs align with his camp) and to break away from Livni’s party. Dicter will join him. It is then possible that Mofaz’s Kadima faction would enter Netanyahu’s coalition government. Dicter made this one of his key campaign pledges: To take his skills and experience and his supporters into the coalition government and seek to impact on the diplomatic, security and economic direction of the government from the inside.
Dicter himself would a prize acquisition for either Mofaz’s Kadima or the Likud-led coalition, or both. Dicter has a sterling reputation for honesty and integrity (it was he who exposed the corruption in Livni’s party bureaucracy), and a proven security record. As GSS head, he was the architect of Israel’s strategy of targeting terrorist leaders. He was an early and key advocate of the security fence. He remains outspoken on the need to “crush” the Hamas in Gaza in comprehensive fashion.
Even more importantly, Dicter is very clear about the need to bolster and reinforce Israel’s status as a Jewish state. His important Basic Law to reinforce Israel’s Jewish identity is still before the Knesset, legislation which Livni has strangely opposed.
Whatever happens next week, Dicter is sure to be a hotly-sought-after political asset, and appropriately so.