Kadima must start over
Ariel Sharon was bullying, cunning and pragmatic, but most of all he had struck a chord on the public's emotions. Olmert, though swifter, slicker, lacks that quality and needs to do something about it quick.
Until its founding Kadima was a party of dreams. A party that would represent the Israeli center, which had been oppressed for a generation by extremists on the right and the left. A party that would stabilize Israel and afford it a strong democratic regime with the ability to govern. A party that would divide the land with good judgment and caution.
However, from the moment of its founding, something went wrong in Kadima. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's court did not succeed in making it into a party that is not a court party. Kadima came into the world without elected institutions, without orderly processes and without a trace of internal democracy. The collection of candidates for the Knesset also disappointed. Alongside Tzipi Livni, Avi Dichter, Haim Ramon and a few more impressive candidates, the ranks were filled with people of no stature whose main virtue is obedience. Instead of the party of great promise becoming a party of quality, it became a brand-name party of submissive, self-interested individuals. A party of cronies and sycophants.
In the normative realm Kadima has never excelled. It gave a hand to crossing party lines and continued to meddle in a repulsive way in parties from which it had ostensibly disengaged. A number of the personages it has embraced are not worthy of embrace. However, Kadima's most problematic decision was not to put a single Arab candidate in a realistic place on the Knesset list. This decision exposed unforgivable racist blindness.
From the ideological point of view Kadima has also been shown to be hollow. It did not grapple seriously with the Hamas victory, and it is not grappling at all with the crisis of social injustice. It is making vain promises in the matter of a permanent border that has never been and will not be, and it is throwing sand in the public's eyes in the matter of a merciful economy that does not exist. Up until this moment the party of dividing the land has not declared whether it intends to divide the land by means of an agreement or by means of a unilateral move. In this, in taking care to present a platform of vagueness, Kadima is scornful of the public as no party has ever scorned it before. It is demanding of the public that it say yes to an unfamiliar leader who is striding in an unclear way along an unknown path.
The basic logic at the basis of the foundation of Kadima is still valid: Israel needs a strong, open-eyed and bold center party. But for Kadima to be that party, it must change from bottom to top. It must enrich its leadership gallery, it must adopt democratic behavior patterns and it must immediately state the name of the first Arab government minister it will appoint. Kadima must publish a serious policy program, not spin, and it must prove, in fact, that it is the party of the large majority and not the party of big capital. However, above all, Kadima must prove that it has a way, that it has principles and that it has values.
Ariel Sharon was bullying, cunning and pragmatic. But Sharon was not a nihilist. His earthy personality and his Jewish identity afforded depth to his bullying pragmatism. Therefore, the Israelis adored him. Therefore, the Israelis trusted him.
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not have this depth. He is swifter and slicker, but he is not deep. The Israelis are now beginning to feel the acting prime minister's lack of depth. Therefore they are uneasy. Deep down they are feeling that a nihilist is not worthy of being prime minister and that a party of nihilists is not worthy of being the ruling party. Therefore, if Olmert and his party do not want to be surprised at the end of March, they must do something at once. Although Kadima is very young, Kadima must start over from the beginning.