Despite the apathy that accompanied the Kadima primary, there's no doubt that something important happened Tuesday. The failure of the party's former chairwoman, Tzipi Livni, stings sharply given the great hopes raised by her pursuit of national leadership. Livni was portrayed as an honest leader, who wasn't prepared to compromise and abandon her principles. But in the end, she paid a heavy price for this.
It's possible that Livni erred when she refused to be flexible and form a coalition with Shas, and it's possible that Israeli politics, which is being steadily swept rightward, wouldn't have allowed her to lead a moderate centrist government. Even so, Livni blew the opportunity her voters gave her to lead a fighting and decisive opposition.
With Livni at the helm, Kadima seemed to fall asleep on its watch. A string of racist legislation, mistaken diplomatic decisions and the increasing lack of trust between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which has brought peace talks to a dead end - none of these seemed to rouse her. On the contrary, leading MKs in her faction actively participated in all these, forming a united front with the Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Habayit Hayehudi. She even missed the opportunity provided by last summer's social protests.
Only during the past few months, when she vehemently objected to Kadima MK Avi Dichter's "Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people" bill and expressed herself sharply against racism did she reveal - too late, unfortunately - clearly defined positions that represented sane and moderate Zionism.
In the end, it seems, Livni disappointed her voters, which is why Shaul Mofaz scored an easy and overwhelming victory. Now he will face the same test.
In many ways, Mofaz is the total opposite of Livni, who grew up as a Likud princess. He's hungry to lead and enthusiastically promises he will fight for the privilege. But the desire to lead the struggle against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not the be-all and end-all. As the chairman of Kadima, Mofaz must stop his party from disintegrating and lead a strong, determined opposition.
The opposition is the key. Only if Mofaz succeeds in dissipating the current political fog by expressing clear positions and leading his party to stand firmly against the government will there be a chance for a better future in Israel.
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