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In his article on the editorial page, "Finally, Israelis have a real choice" (Dec. 22), Ari Shavit wrote that the election of Benjamin Netanyahu to the head of the Likud, even if he is "not currently fit to be prime minister," is good for democracy since as opposition leader, he "can definitely present an alternative path to that of [Ariel] Sharon."

It's strange how a man who is not suitable to be prime minister can be head of the opposition. As such, he is supposed to present the public with a consistent, ongoing alternative to the existing government, and when the public chooses that alternative, he must be capable of functioning as prime minister. Shavit brings the head of opposition down to the level of a stand-up comedian who is allowed to have second thoughts about the existing government's rule, but can't meet the test of "applying" his jokes. Is that "good for democracy?"

This is all part of the ongoing deterioration of the political system in Israel, which has long since been transformed from an arena in which there are struggles over ideas and paths, to one in which people fight for the perquisites of office.

For some 30 years the two major parties fought for the government with practically identical ideological foundations as reflected in the deeds and failures of the governments that were elected by them. Both were "centrist" parties that championed "peace and security" and were distinguished by the ability of their campaign managers to invent a more successful brand or slogan. The similarity between the two parties also explains the "desertion" from the Likud and Labor to Kadima. Suddenly, Sharon has been turned into the last of the Mapainiks and Shimon Peres will no longer "divide Jerusalem" and there's nothing really left to say about Shaul Mofaz. The public desire for a strong political center, as expressed in Shinui's success in the last elections and its expected trampling under the feet of Kadima in this year's vote, is one of the deepest expressions of our progress down the slippery anti-democratic slope.

Ariel Sharon, whom everyone knows is a great democrat, was the first to identify the potential in the center when he thinned out the extremist Herut with the Liberals. That trick lasted until the disengagement plan, which smashed the Likud into its basic components - the right-wing of Herut in the form of Uzi Landau and "the rebels," and the Liberals in the form of Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert.

If Peretz wants to promote the Labor Party as an alternative ruling party, he must stick to his principles, which should have always been Labor's principles, ideals that make a top priority of society's resilience, with security being a derivation of that need. He must prepare to be the head of an opposition who can be a prime minister, presenting a real alternative to what we hope is the last remnant of parties fighting for seats in the form of Kadima. He must push it to bravely present the public with its principles, which are based on the belief that our military strength will guarantee our existence and that society will manage on its own ...

Netanyahu is indeed not worthy of being prime minister. And as such, he is not worthy of being head of the opposition. Let him remain where he deserves: at the head of the small and deluded extreme rightist camp.

The writer is an architect.