The leading candidates in the Kadima primary, ministers Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz, demonstrated commendable public responsibility in granting extensive interviews over the weekend. But the picture that emerges from these interviews is painted in shades of gray: Neither candidate has a sweeping vision or ideology. They do not say how they would like to see Israel or its place in the world. Their concepts of leadership resemble those of a janitor who unclogs drains and sees to it that the system doesn't break down during his shift, more than it does a leader who seeks to change and shape the state.
Livni and Mofaz are the antithesis of Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. You won't catch them quoting from books and encyclopedia, or mentioning Churchill and Ben-Gurion. They speak to current events, not to history. The public persona presented by Mofaz and Livni is one of someone like you, not of patronizing, distant intellectuals. When questioned about their economic views, both say they oppose Netanyahu's ideology. In other words, they see themselves in terms of the positions of the political rival rather than presenting an independent viewpoint. It's hard to think of a clearer expression of the gap between two types of leadership, proactive and sustentative.
Both view the prime minister as a type of CEO whose role is to listen to the ministers, officials and public committees and make decisions in accordance with his worldview. Both are aware of the political and coalitional circumstances that greatly restrict their freedom of movement - assuming they can form a government. They also learned the lesson of the big promises of Ehud Olmert, which were not fulfilled, and prefer not to make declarations that will come to haunt them in the future.
The cliche about the "3 A.M. phone call," which was borrowed from the U.S. presidential campaign for the Kadima primaries, reduces the role of the prime minister to putting out security-related fires. That is a distortion. The prime minister is not the duty officer, but rather the person who is supposed to plan the route, pull the entire governmental and public system along with him, and represent the state to the world.
The gaps between the positions of Livni and Mofaz on the critical issues are not great, and that comes as no surprise. Their party represents the political center, the status quo, not revolutions and changes. Both promise to continue the talks with Syria and the Palestinians, but with little enthusiasm. Both are in favor of evacuating the Migron outpost, but not against the background of opposition from the settlers. Both will try to get the most out of the diplomatic measures against Iran's nuclear program, while leaving the military option on the table. Both are in favor of reining in the High Court of Justice, taking care of the disadvantaged, advancing education and national service for everyone. And so on and so forth. At the end of the day, the election will be won by style, not substance. Livni is much more popular than Mofaz with the international community, and knows how to say the right things in support of a Palestinian state to the right ears abroad. Above all, whoever wins will have to demonstrate high levels of emotional and social intelligence, as well as excellent negotiating skills in order to quickly build a coalition and assume the premiership. Both are at risk of crashing out if drawn into a general election. According to all the polls, Kadima is in a better position now than it would be in a general election, no matter who leads the party. Thus, the real question of the campaign is what Shas will receive in exchange for remaining in the government, and not what Mofaz or Livni thinks about peace, security or the price of bread.
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