Likud is the biggest party in Israel, the biggest in the history of Israel and the biggest in the democratic world. If you add up its offspring, siblings and twins, its representation in the Knesset comes to 86. An amoeba like that has never been seen before, proliferating to every major party. It's just like the recent disclosure that the Direct Insurance Company and the insurance company called 9,000,000, which are seemingly two competing companies, are basically one firm. So too, most political parties in Israel appear under different brands, but they're one party.
Likud is the parent party. Virtually the whole Kadima party leadership grew out of it. Yisrael Beiteinu was established by Avigdor Lieberman, who is also a Likud graduate. Many Shas voters came from Likud. And the Atzmaut faction is a Likud satellite. All of them together constitute 86 Knesset seats. One people, one party, one voice. No such phenomenon exists in the Western world. Such a thing has never happened in a democracy.
It's a uniform worldview that originated from the same large habitat. Take, for example, the reactions to Netanyahu's speech to Congress. Only people who understand that these are basically fellow subsidiary parties can explain the strange significance of the choir in Israel that burst into song. One people, one song. Kadima's Tzipi Livni stammered. Her colleague Shaul Mofaz mumbled, and Tzachi Hanegbi called for a national unity government. They are the leaders of the leading opposition party, speaking about such a fundamental subject, and all of them are Likud graduates.
Only Haim Ramon, who has different roots, criticized the prime minister, but he only said that Benjamin Netanyahu had destroyed Israel's legitimacy and the prospects for showing that there is no Palestinian partner. He didn't talk about peace. So it's not a matter of ideological differences, only tactical ones. Livni, who just last week found time to praise the singer Dana International, who lost the Eurovision Song Contest, for "doing wonderful things for Israel" was much less decisive when it came to Barack Obama's Middle East peace plans.
Are you for or against them, she was asked, but you couldn't wrest a clear answer from the opposition leader. Yes and no, or actually neither. Lieberman praised Netanyahu. Shas' Eli Yishai hastened to dedicate the settlement of Ma'aleh Zeitim in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. The differences are tiny. No one would spot them.
When the Atzmaut faction was established in the Knesset, one of its leaders, Shalom Simhon, said it would be positioned "to the right of Kadima and to the left of Likud." But who could wedge anything between them? Kadima is often to the right of Likud, certainly when it comes to everything related to protecting democracy, a subject on which it's the ideological partner of National Union and Yisrael Beiteinu.
That's not how you build an opposition and that's not democracy. If on the most fateful issue for the country's future there is such amazing unanimity, something is amiss here. If it were the economy and not the country, the regulatory authorities would have intervened long ago. Such monopoly control by one company and its subsidiaries should not be permitted.
True, Livni sometimes sticks it to Netanyahu, but the discourse between them is emotional, not ideological. They are both from the same camp, and the result: a Knesset with one giant party, which is no less dangerous than the single-party parliaments that existed in Moscow and Cairo. There once was an opposition here, but it is no more. One should recall the days when Menachem Begin led the opposition to the Mapai government - fiery speeches, decisive and contrary positions. Think back, too, to Shimon Peres against Begin when the latter was prime minister. It was war. Two different approaches, at least on the rhetorical level. Where are they and where are we now?
If after an address as deceptive, dangerous and destructive as Netanyahu's, such a nearly wall-to-wall consensus is laid bare in the Knesset, then a grave injustice is being done, undermining the foundations that lie under those Knesset walls. If that's the case, there is no need for elections, since the political game is fixed in advance. There is nothing to deliberate about either, because there is no significance in making a choice. A vote for almost any party is a vote for Likud. Just like the false choice between Direct Insurance and 9,000,000.
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