Upon seeing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's radiant face as he celebrated Judge Richard Goldstone's confession that his UN report on Operation Cast Lead dealt too harshly with Israel, and upon hearing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's attack on the Jewish judge - one might have thought that those two politicians were the ones who sent the Israel Air Force to bomb the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008-2009. What about a good word for Ehud Olmert? A small bouquet of flowers for Tzipi Livni? After all, they're the ones who showed the whole world that Israel can attack Palestinian residential areas and come out looking like the victim.
Operation Cast Lead 1, manufactured by Kadima, constitutes an Israeli and international license for Cast Lead 2. The Cast Lead saga demonstrates the similarity between the two largest political parties with respect to the use of force against Hamas. Even the defense minister was not dislodged in the last election.
Likud is considered a "right-wing party" because of Netanyahu's reluctance to act promptly in negotiations with the Palestinians, and his failure to freeze construction in the settlements. Kadima has assumed the "centrist party" label, thanks to Olmert's accelerated talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. In practice, the Annapolis process made it possible for the Kadima government to impose an extended blockade on 1.5 million people in Gaza and ignore the theft of land in the West Bank. Peace, as we all know, was not the result, and it remains very much in doubt whether any Israeli government in the foreseeable future will herald a breakthrough leading to a peace treaty.
It was not for nothing that Netanyahu provoked Livni from the Knesset podium about whether she is willing to give up the West Bank settlement of Ariel, evacuate the Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa in East Jerusalem, or allow a limited number of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel. Netanyahu presumably knows the answers. Indeed, they can be found in the Al Jazeera papers, which documented the talks between Livni and the senior Palestinian representative at the time, Ahmed Qureia - and they are: No, no and no. And if the head of Kadima changes her mind on those issues, how many fellow leaders will back her up?
Kadima's behavior pattern in the Knesset refutes the assumption that an agglomeration of "refugees" from the Likud, Labor and Yisrael Beiteinu parties will be waving the tattered flag of the peace camp. The elected officials of Kadima have stood out more for defending the settlement policy and attacking democracy than for criticizing the suspension of peace talks or protesting the damage done to the weaker segments of the population.
For the benefit of the left-wingers who voted for Kadima, here is a selection of Kadima's actions during the Knesset session that just ended:
* Two Kadima MKs (Otniel Schneller and Eli Aflalo ) voted in favor of a law requiring a national referendum to approve any Israeli return of land, and only 15 out of 28 faction members voted against.
* After attacking colleagues who participated in J Street's annual conference in Washington in February, and accusing them of doing damage to the state, Schneller initiated a debate in the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs on the left-wing Jewish lobby, which doesn't see settlement construction as something that contributes to a two-state solution. He told fellow Kadima MK Yoel Hasson, who attended the conference, that "it's strange that the chairman of Likud Youth and the former chairman of Betar are assisting a pro-Palestinian organization." Hasson responded: "You haven't been part of Kadima for a long time; you don't represent Kadima." Unfortunately, it's looking like Schneller very much represents Kadima.
* Schneller was one of three Kadima MKs (the other two were Yulia Shamalov Berkovich and Robert Tibayev ) who supported a Yisrael Beiteinu proposal to investigate the funding sources of human-rights groups in Israel.
* Hasson and fellow Kadima MK Shai Hermesh co-sponsored a recently passed law, along with radical right-winger David Rotem, allowing certain small communities to use admissions committees to screen potential residents. Only one Kadima MK (Shlomo Molla ) voted against it.
* No more than five Kadima MKs voted against the Nakba Law, and two (Gideon Ezra and Orit Zuaretz ) voted for a law revoking the citizenship of Israelis convicted of espionage, of an act of terror against the country or of aiding Israel's enemies. No Kadima member voted against it.
Now that Kadima is five years old, it is looking more like a satellite branch of the right wing, disguised as a centrist party. The shared victory party of those behind Operation Cast Lead and the leaders of the struggle against the so-called "delegitimization" of Israel is an excellent opportunity to bring them all together under the chuppah.
Thank you, Judge Goldstone. Thank you for reminding us what the real face of the alternative actually looks like.
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