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Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak are the most hated men in Israel. For many people, Netanyahu from Caesarea and Barak from Akirov are the epitome of everything that's rotten here.

They are condescending, arrogant, wealthy cigar-smokers who are indifferent to the people and have no commitment to social justice. They are obtuse leaders, devoid of emotional intelligence or human sensitivity.

Granted.

But this week, Netanyahu and Barak prevented a war, and they deserve a good word for that. Netanyahu and Barak may yet screw up, but during the first half of this week they behaved like responsible adults. Quietly, professionally and with great self-control, they tried to dismantle the ticking bomb that was liable to send the south up in flames and take the lives of hundreds of people.

The prime minister and defense minister's businesslike, surgical precision stood in sharp contrast to the reckless criticism of the opposition. Tzipi Livni criticized the government's flaccidity and called for throwing everything we've got at Hamas, even though that would have generated a massive missile attack on Ashkelon, Ashdod, Be'er Sheva, Rehovot and Rishon Letzion. Shaul Mofaz called for a decisive operation that would collapse the Hamas infrastructure, even though that would have led to mass killings in Gaza and the deaths of many Israeli soldiers.

If Livni had been prime minister this week, and Mofaz defense minister, Israel would at this moment be in the midst of a bloody war. You would be reading this newspaper as Israeli cities were burning, Israel Defense Forces soldiers were being buried and the peace with Egypt was collapsing. In their genius and their arrogance, the Livni-Mofaz government would have brought a disaster upon us.

The Kadima leadership proved this week that it has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. It never internalized the Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War, and has forgotten the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead. It hasn't yet grasped the limits of force. Therefore, when Israel was attacked, Kadima reacted as it had in the past - from the gut; from the hip; from its deep, visceral machismo.

Hit 'em, demanded the party of moderation. Slam them, demanded the party of sanity. The party that brought us the Second Lebanon War and the first Hamas war was vehemently demanding a third conflict. Kadima ignored the fact that Hamas exhibited maturity and responsibility. It ignored the fact that Egypt is hanging by a thread. It ignored the complex and volatile strategic situation Israel is in right now.

Kadima didn't speak harshly out of malice, but out of superficiality. It wasn't boiling out of bloodlust, but out of shallowness. The party that had promised to be the party of peace has redefined itself as the party of war.

Israel investigates its wars a lot; it might be worth investigating the wars that didn't happen, as well. Who tried to escalate things, and why? Who blocked it, and how? Who exercised good judgment at crucial moments?

Yitzhak Shamir and Aryeh Deri prevented an unnecessary war in 1991. Ariel Sharon acted with restraint in response to the terror of 2001. Netanyahu wasn't quick on the trigger during his last term, nor has he been during this one.

On the other hand, Kadima rushed to war in 2006, didn't want to end the 2009 war at its proper time and suggested moves that would have entangled Israel in a bloody war in 2011.

This list of accomplishments is disturbing, worrisome and not coincidental. Apparently there is something unstable in Kadima's personality structure. With no clear principles or identity, it tends to populism on security matters. It talks about withdrawing from the territories but hastens to kill Arabs.

Because Kadima is really a Likudnik at heart, it compensates itself for its territorial doveness with brutal militarism. The result is not a balanced formula for pursuing peace while assuring security. The result is a diplomatic platform that is not applicable, alongside the repeated adoption of military adventurism.

Too bad. Israel needs a strong, enlightened and worthy Kadima. But to offer Israel a different future, Kadima is going to have to fundamentally change. It must prove that it isn't a three-war party.