Dan Halutz
Dan Halutz. Photo by Nir Keidar
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Several decades ago, when the major political parties decided to switch from candidate selection committees to primary elections, the idea was to allow party members to elect their representatives in an open and transparent competition. Over time, it transpired that the primaries system is not without its problems, especially when it comes to ties between candidates and donors, both local and foreign, because of the vast sums needed to run for a spot on the ticket. But now the situation has become palpably absurd, and makes a mockery of the democratic foundation of the primaries.

As reported in Haaretz on Friday, former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz, who is not yet a member of any party but is expected to enter the political fray, has raised $103,000 for the campaign he has yet to officially announce. The report also said more than $98,000 was contributed by a single donor, with whom Halutz had been in touch because of previous donations to Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. Since there is no legal ceiling on funds from overseas donors, the contribution is legally kosher. But it still stinks.

While not exactly a military coup, this is without doubt a hostile takeover, of the kind common in the business world - and it takes a lot of chutzpah to treat Israeli politics like a corporation. When there's such significant financial support from a single foreign donor, it's clear that the ability of the sovereign Israeli citizens to determine who will lead the country is seriously impaired. The inability of a former chief of staff to see that demonstrates his fundamental alienation from basic norms of political and civic life.

Nobody knows the political positions of the former chief of staff. He hasn't made any significant comments on politics, security, strategy or economics; it seems his strategic consultants are advising him to make as few statements as possible. But the lack of a public profile indicative of his opinions does not prevent him from planning political moves years ahead of the next general election. According to a Channel 10 report last month, Halutz will join Kadima. But the idea of first raising funds abroad and only then deciding which party to join, and ultimately take over, is more suited to the mentality of a casino gambler than to that of someone who sees himself as a candidate for a national leadership position.

I don't know if Kadima has the legal means to prevent such a hostile takeover, and presumably some of its leaders may have personal reasons to support such a takeover. But they had better give it their full consideration and announce that external takeovers like this are unacceptable. It's also doubtful that the presence of a former chief of staff who is seen by most of the public as responsible for the failings of the Second Lebanon War will indeed win more votes for Kadima, or any other party Halutz joins.

Before Halutz raises the money to take over a political party, he should tell the public where he stands on essential questions like the peace process with the Palestinians, the future of the settlements and the nature of Israeli society.

And one more thing: When you look at the steps this former chief of staff has been taking as he stands at the threshold of political life, it's hard not to ask yourself why all this planning, sophistication and guile weren't invested into strategic thinking when he was entrusted with the security of Israel and the command of the IDF. That question will haunt Halutz, wherever he may go.