By pulling Kadima out of the coalition on Tuesday, Shaul Mofaz put an end to his political career. His 70 days as vice prime minister had not a whit of influence on the policies of the right-wing, ultra-Orthodox government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Mofaz knew that, and he tried to cut his losses - but to no avail.
Over the next few days, Mofaz will try to sell himself as a man of principle who would not agree to Netanyahu's concessions to the Haredim over military and national service. That will be about as convincing as the excuses made by his predecessor as Kadima leader, Tzipi Livni, for her inability to form a government after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned.
Like Mofaz , Livni also tried to paint herself as a Haredi-battler who would not submit to Shas' financial and diplomatic demands. While there were some who bought it, the results were awful. Her rise to the top was stymied - although her party actually won the most votes in the 2009 election - and her career began to sink, until her loss to Mofaz in the Kadima leadership primary led her to resign from the Knesset.
Mofaz, meanwhile, did not succeed in distancing Netanyahu from his natural partners or his right-wing ideology. Even with Kadima, the government continued to make strengthening the settlements its top priority, and invested its political energy in the report issued by the Levy Committee declaring that Israel is not an occupying force in the West Bank, as well as in getting the Ariel academic center recognized as a full-fledged university.
But there was one thing Mofaz did accomplish with his overnight maneuver on May 8: He managed to delay elections by a few months. Netanyahu's rivals thus gained some precious time to organize and gather strength. The social protest and draft demands are getting more play in the streets. And while right now there doesn't seem to be anyone who could challenge Netanyahu for the national leadership, the prime minister is a lot more vulnerable.
Mofaz has never looked like a serious replacement for Netanyahu, not as opposition head and not as vice prime minister. His career as a political leader was a lost cause, and his short stint in the government couldn't rescue it.
But his resignation now is liable to set a process in motion that will lead to a change in leadership. The big question is whether Mofaz, by leaving, will bring Netanyahu down after him.
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