To be or not to be a fig leaf
The members of Kadima have much more to lose in primaries than do their Labor colleagues.
Once again the Labor Party is deliberating over the question of whether to be a fig leaf for the national paralysis government. As on previous occasions, when members of the party devoted themselves to Likud governments, they will once again sell themselves cheap. Did I say cheap? Free of charge. Once again Fuad (Benjamin Ben-Eliezer) or Buzi (Isaac Herzog) will get up and wave doomsday weapons in front of the members of the central committee, and ask: "What do you want? Bibi (Netanyahu) in power?" Good question. But instead of directing the question inward, as it has been doing for the past seven years, the Labor Party should direct the question upward.
The members of Kadima have much more to lose in primaries than do their Labor colleagues. According to the surveys, if the Labor Party replaces Amir Peretz with a reasonable candidate, it will be able to maintain and even increase its strength. Kadima, on the other hand, is expected to lose more than half of its seats. A bonanza like the one it enjoyed in the last elections does not repeat itself. Even with the assistance of the Winograd Committee, Ariel Sharon's radiance has dulled and belief in his policy of unilateral moves has dissipated. The political future of Roni Bar-On depends entirely on the members of the Labor Central Committee. Even Ehud Olmert's best friend is not thrilled about abandoning his ministerial position in favor of a job at a mediocre law firm.
If it doesn't behave like a bunch of rags again, Labor has the power to dictate to Bar-On and company the conditions for continuing their partnership. Nobody is proposing that the party exploit the weakness of its senior partner in order to extort principled concessions from it. On the contrary: All Labor has to do is to pull out the government's basic guidelines and determine a timetable for implementing them.
1. In those basic guidelines, it says: "In the upcoming period we will aspire to bring about the determination of the permanent borders of the State of Israel as a Jewish state with a permanent Jewish majority, and as a democratic country. We will work to do so via negotiations and an agreement with our Palestinian neighbors. An agreement can be based only on negotiations, of the kind conducted on the basis of mutual recognition, previously signed agreements, the principles of the road map, and of course an end to the violence and the disarming of the terror organizations." In view of this, Labor's condition for continuing the partnership should be: The government will immediately begin negotiations with the chair of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, concerning all the issues related to the final status agreement, and those linked to the Arab peace initiative, which includes an accord with Syria and Lebanon as well. The talks will also discuss the conditions for expanding the cease-fire to include the West Bank.
2. Also in the basic guidelines: "The government will work to fulfill the commitments and decisions of the outgoing government on the subject of the unauthorized outposts." Labor's condition: dismantling all the outposts, including the new one in Hebron, before the publication of the full report of the Winograd Committee. Until then the government will also instruct the defense minister to implement the main recommendations of the Sasson report on the unauthorized outposts, as decided by the previous government in March 2005. Moreover, the government will immediately freeze all construction in the settlements, as it promised the U.S. administration.
3. Also in the guidelines: "The time has come to fight against corruption and the corrupting of values in all aspects of our lives, and first and foremost in the government establishment and the public administration. We will fully support all the law-enforcement agencies and will respect the rule of law and the courts, and, chief among them, the Supreme Court." The condition: suspension of ministers, including the prime minister, against whom a police investigation is being conducted; full support for the institution of State Comptroller; and an end to the campaign of delegitimization of the Supreme Court.
4. And finally, in the basic guidelines: "Woe to a country in which citizens collect leftover food from garbage cans and children are fed in soup kitchens. Woe to a country that does not know how to treat its poor with compassion, neglects its elderly and ignores the children of foreign workers, who are fated to live in it as citizens without rights, designated for expulsion. That is not our way." The condition: Complete inclusion of the Welfare Ministry and the National Insurance Institute in budget discussions, with the goal of reducing the social gap already next year, updating the health services basket and rescuing the dignity of Holocaust survivors.
Labor must announce that if these conditions are accepted and fulfilled, it will even be willing to continue to bestow its favors upon Kadima. If Kadima rejects them, here comes Bibi, here comes Sara.