After the Meretz party crashed in the polls and Labor imploded in two phases - first in the polls, then with the Barak-engineered split - what is left of the Israeli parliamentary left? What's left of the left is Kadima. And what does Israel's parliamentary left do when push comes to shove? It shoves for war.
It is astonishing to see the pathologically consistent role played by the main opposition party in the public debate periodically launched concerning escalation versus calm on the Gaza front. All of Kadima's public faces - starting with chairwoman Tzipi Livni, continuing with chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Shaul Mofaz, and ending with brand-new party recruit and IDF chief of staff during the Second Lebanon War, Dan Halutz - are urging the government to up its retaliation efforts. Slogans about restoring Israeli deterrence, assassinating Hamas leaders and even collapsing the entire Hamas organization are pulled from the back of dusty drawers at every opportune moment. It's hard to believe this is really the reaction of the opposition to the left of Likud. Who needs a coalition if this is what the opposition looks like?
Naturally, one can find support for Cast Lead II in the Likud, but at this point those who oppose it seem to have the upper hand. The Kadima choir, by contrast, preaches in militant unison without any dissonance, in a manner that makes one long for the Labor party's smorgasbord of ideas. Moreover, Cast Lead II may even be too moderate a scenario for Kadima altogether, as both Livni and Ehud Olmert reportedly supported a different ending to the original operation - including the reoccupation of the Gaza Strip and a regime change - and it was the chief of staff and the defense minister who actually blocked the move.
An opposition party can overtake the coalition from the right, but it can't pride itself on being a center-left party while doing so. The truth is Kadima has always been a rightist party and Likud may well be to the left of it - not only on the Gaza question, but also in its war against the gas and cellular tycoons.
In recent years, Israel has tragically become a wrestling arena for two enormous right-wing parties. The fact that one of them disguises itself as center-left only amplifies the tragedy: Many left-leaning citizens gave their vote to Kadima, while the international community gave it diplomatic credit - which, luckily, it never gave Likud. Kadima spent every bit of that credit on two bloody wars. If the Israeli left wants to live, it must denounce Kadima, which has ruined it, and fearlessly expose its true nature. It is certainly the last chance for the Labor party to do so, as it desperately tries to renew itself.
The contradiction between how Kadima brands itself and where it truly stands is no accident. This is the key behind the power and charm of a party that cracked the equally contradictory Israeli genetic code. The average bourgeois Israeli has rightist opinions but prefers to wear the enlightened brand of the center-left. The secret of Kadima's success is that it fulfills its voters' contradictory wishes simultaneously.
The coming months will be fateful for Israel. In the south, in the north, in the rapidly changing Middle East, and first and foremost on the devastatingly frozen diplomatic front. At this moment, Israel deserves a combative, not war-mongering, opposition. We need a real alternative, not right disguised as left and marching us in the wrong direction: Left, right, left.
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