Starting today, Shaul Mofaz is the political alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu. Until yesterday, Mofaz was Tzipi's problem. Now he's Bibi's problem. It's still too early to predict how much of a threat Mofaz and Kadima will present to Netanyahu and the Likud, but one should not underestimate Mofaz: he is determined, he's hungry and he has his eye on the prize.
Mofaz has been waiting for this moment for three and a half years. Last night, he proved he knows how to run a flawless political campaign and mobilize voters. During the coming days, he will remind Israelis that he served as IDF chief of staff and minister of defense, and that he has plenty to say about Iran and about social issues, which are likely to return to the headlines this summer.
Mofaz has an image problem. He is perceived by many as a cold and unfeeling general, belligerent and right-wing. While it's true he is a general, he is far from unfeeling, far from being a right-winger, as the political plan he formulated two years ago showed, and he is not a warmonger either. He is a moderate, no less so than Livni. His mission now is to sell himself to a skeptical public. One could say he is working on borrowed time.
Netanyahu was not hoping for a Mofaz victory, as Tzipi Livni claimed. People close to Netanyahu heard the truth from him recently: He was hoping for a Livni victory. He understood, like many, that Livni is finished. She's history. Three years as a failed opposition leader wiped out her chances of ever being elected prime minister. Bibi wanted to run against Tzipi in the next elections – he knows her, and isn't impressed. Mofaz, on the other hand, is a riddle, an enigma. He is the unknown, and could still surprise us. If there is anything prime ministers don't like, it is running against the unknown.
Chances are that Mofaz's overwhelming victory last night will create momentum for Kadima. The surveys will certainly indicate a rise in its standing. Then we will see what he can do: as party head, and as head of the opposition, and later, as a candidate for prime minister.
Livni concluded her historical role yesterday - whatever it was – either temporarily or permanently. Her failure was enormous and resounding. She did not manage to bring out the voters. Party members may have told pollsters they were with her, but on the day of the primary they did not bother to come out to support her. She ran a campaign riddled with errors, a hysterical, whiny campaign permeated with a sense of entitlement. True, she fought until the end, but it would have been better if she had not warned "Israel's citizens" and "the State of Israel" against the consequences of her not being elected. The nation of Israel will survive even this political drama.
A word about polls: None of the serious pollsters or media outlets surveyed newly registered Kadima members. Experience from the last decade proves that polls of this kind are chronically inaccurate. There is no real scientific way to predict primary results due to the small size of the voting public, the multiplicity of interests and the manipulations of the respondents.
Despite the accumulated negative experience and all the warning signs, one "independent" survey was conducted last week by a pollster named Dafna Goldberg-Anaby, paid for by donations collected by a political blogger named Tal Schneider. The poll predicted an unambiguous victory for Livni, well beyond the statistical margin of error: 46 percent versus 36% for Mofaz. The pollster and the journalist appeared more than once on a certain radio program to discuss their poll, full of pride at their bravery and preaching morality to the media and serious pollsters.
In the end, the results of the primaries were: 62% for Mofaz, 38% for Livni – a 24% margin for Mofaz. The "independent" poll was off by only 34%. It cost some NIS 6,500 of the public's money. Was it worth it? That money could have paid for quite a few Passover meals for the needy.
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