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Literati researchers have spent their lives attempting to pin down the identity of William Shakespeare. Some reached the learned conclusion that the person who actually wrote the plays and poetry attributed to Shakespeare was a contemporary. This subversive conclusion made absolutely no difference to humanity's attitude toward the writer: whether Shakespeare was the person bearing the familiar visage associated with him or whether he was one of his cohorts, his cultural and literary stature remains the same. What is important is the words he wrote, and not whether Shakespeare the man had the high cheekbones and swept-back hair or a different face.

When one looks at the character lines that are adding up to a portrait of the Kadima party, not to confuse the two, the need arises for painstaking study to distinguish between it and the Likud from which it branched off. The same people, the same diplomatic and socioeconomic positions, the same problematic degree of corruption and criminality, the same method of deception and manipulation.

In what respect is the Ariel Sharon who is the leader of Kadima better than the Ariel Sharon who headed the Likud? For good or for ill, he is surrounded by the same characters familiar to us from his previous party (with negligible reinforcement from Labor Party refugees), the usual advisers whisper into his ear and he behaves the same way he always has: when asked about the future of the illegal West Bank outposts, he recites the mantra, without batting an eyelash, "They will be evacuated." And when he brings Tzachi Hanegbi over, his public relations flacks create a sentimental narrative about the father-son relationship the two men supposedly have. The Hanegbi of Kadima is the Hanegbi of the Likud: he reads out loud a cynical explanation of his relationship with Sharon whose main point is his admiration for the prime minister's leadership and his personality that leads his audience to question whether the author was Hanegbi or one of Sharon's ad men.

If the current polling trends continue, increasing importance will be given to the issue of whether a significant ideological split actually took place within the Likud or whether it just changed its name and address. According to the Haaretz-Dialog poll published on Friday, 62 percent of Likud voters intend to vote for Kadima, in addition to 42 and 60 percent of Labor and Shinui voters, respectively. Which Sharon will these groups be voting for, the one who initiated and implemented the Gaza disengagement plan, or the one who declares that there will be no more unilateral withdrawals? For the Sharon who pronounces his acceptance of a Palestinian state, or for the one who announces that he will not make one more step toward the Palestinians until they disarm the terror organizations? For the Sharon who hints at his realization that there is no way around saying good-bye to most of the territories, or for the one who waves the road map around like an amulet that protects him from any additional territorial concessions?

And what kind of coalition do the moderate voters who are now following Sharon envision? Do they have a solid foundation for assuming that the head of Kadima will turn to Labor and Meretz to form a government rather than courting the shrunken Likud and the parties to the right of it (including the ultra-Orthodox)?

The key to ensuring that Sharon will move toward ending the conflict with the Palestinians if he is reelected prime minister is for the left to form a bloc that would prevent him from creating a coalition with the traditional right-wing. In other words, citizens who never voted Likud before who want to continue on the path that Sharon marked out with the disengagement initiative would be wise to stay the course rather than voting for Kadima.

The way to increase the likelihood that Sharon will put some real content into the moderate image his PR people are creating for him is by strengthening Labor and Meretz, not by giving Kadima enough votes to get 40 Knesset seats. Since Sharon is likely to turn both to the left and to the right, it is in the interest of voters who want to put an end to the occupation to make sure there is a peace-loving parliamentary bloc without whose support he will be unable to form a government.