The big bang of 2010
If the political system had worked properly, Netanyahu would be leading a moderate right-wing party, while Livni would be heading a moderate left-wing party and Barak a centrist party.
Ehud Olmert believes he has yet to have the last word and will be able to take over Kadima again within a year. Tzachi Hanegbi believes - correctly - that if he manages to evade being convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude he could become a key leader of the Israeli center. Gideon Sa'ar is recruiting masses of supporters. Silvan Shalom isn't about to forget or forgive. Gabi Ashkenazi is casting a giant shadow over the entire system. But there's also talk of a well-known television broadcaster whose father's spirit is upon him. Several other celebrities, it is also said, see the leadership vacuum and are eager to fill it.
The subterranean commotion stems from a simple fact: the present Israeli leadership is miscast. If the political system had worked properly, Netanyahu would be leading a moderate right-wing party, while Tzipi Livni would be heading a moderate left-wing party and Ehud Barak a centrist party. After a brief election campaign, the leaders would have brought all three parties into a single sane Zionist government.
But since the political system isn't functioning, all three leaders found themselves in the wrong parties after the 2009 elections. Netanyahu is trapped in the hands of the Likud's extremists, Livni is trapped by Kadima's Likudniks, and Barak is trapped in a party that loves him just as much as he loves it.
All three are unable to implement their true political worldviews. None of them can offer a clear way or decisive solutions. An irrelevant Likud, a Labor that has lost its way and a crumbling Kadima are causing the national leadership to remain stagnant. A distorted political structure is making the next big bang inevitable.
The question is what kind of big bang this will be. There's no point in another maneuver that would enable Netanyahu to get his hands on a quarter of Kadima. Nor is there any point in another shady deal that would enable Livni to get her hands on a third of Labor. The public is sick and tired of dirty tricks and cynical moves. It is demanding a root canal - a structural change of the political system, the creation of a new political situation by means of a different party lineup.
The big bang of 2005 was about dividing the country. Ariel Sharon could not have done what he did by force of personality alone. He needed an idea that would reorganize Israeli politics. So does Netanyahu. If Bibi wants to lead the big bang of 2010, he must base it on an idea. He must offer Kadima's forced converts not just jobs, but a path. If Netanyahu continues wading in the mud he will survive for a while, but will ultimately sink in it. In contrast, if he dares to go out of the box, he has a good chance of making a big comeback. If he proposes a new way of thinking, a new idea and new hope, he will be able to remold Israeli politics.
The new idea is an old one - it's the Zionist idea. At a time when the legitimacy of the Jewish state is coming under unbridled global attack, there is an urgent need to revitalize the Zionist idea. When the Israeli elites turn their backs on the national ethos, there is an immediate need to revitalize the Zionist idea. When most of the children in the first through fifth grades are ultra-Orthodox or Arab, it's a matter of survival to revitalize the Zionist idea. When the State of Israel is becoming the state of Tel Aviv, there's a strategic need to revitalize the Zionist idea. The challenge is one that Israel has not faced since its establishment: that of redefining the Israeli republic.
The silent Israeli majority feels that Zionism is under siege. The threat is posed not only by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. The threat lies within ourselves: our moral eclipse, our obtuseness, our lack of feeling, our stupidity. Our loss of faith in our rightness.
So all Zionist parties must come to their senses, come together and take action. If Netanyahu proves he can lead the Zionist coalition and unite the Israeli majority, his leadership will have meaning. But to do so he must make sure that the big bang of 2010 is a Zionist one, not a cynical one.