4.5 on the Richter Scale

It wasn't the earthquake that Ariel Sharon had planned and wished for; nor was it the "upheaval" of 1977 that shook the hearts of the people. But based on the results of the exit polls, yesterday's election has led to a dramatic political turnaround.

Instead of a right-wing government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud rebels, who undermined any attempt to move toward a peace agreement, Israel will be getting a government that will have the means to implement the plan devised by Ehud Olmert when he becomes prime minister.

Relative to the surveys that gave Kadima between 35 and 42 seats, the figure 32 looks rather disappointing. But one must recall that Kadima did not start out with 42, but with zero. On the way to what it achieved last night, the party trampled the Likud and left people like Uzi Landau and Yisrael Katz on the outside. And more than anything else, it made Netanyahu, the father of all sins, irrelevant.

The voter made it clear that from his point of view, Netanyahu has caused enough damage to the state, and he can go back to selling furniture in the United States.

Despite the disappointing figures, Ehud Olmert certainly has the opportunity to form a coalition quickly, first with Labor and Shas, and to replace the long-serving right-wing government - thus creating a moderate government that will conduct a policy of peace.

While the Labor Party increased its share of the pie by just one seat, thanks to Amir Peretz, it is a new Labor - fresh, full of aspirations to succeed when it comes to both peace and social issues. Anyone who took note of Peretz's development during the election campaign can see him not only as a partner for Olmert, but also as the individual who can restore Labor to its former glory in the future.

It wasn't exactly the earthquake we were expecting, but a tremor measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, causing a shockwave that requires preparing for the worst. The success of the pensioners' list proves just how much the country was in need of both a social and a political shock.

The numbers aren't those that we dreamed of, but they represent a turnaround nevertheless. The entire political map has changed: Instead of Sharon, Olmert; instead of the Likud, Kadima; and instead of Peres, Peretz.

The country can get some color into its cheeks if it begins to quickly deal with the tough tasks that lie ahead.

Olmert's convergence plan speaks of evacuating 60,000 settlers from the "settlement blocs."

Such a move won't pass by without violent opposition, and there is no chance that the United States will foot the NIS 150 billion bill. Even if Olmert manages to put together a peace government, he is not Sharon.

But the fact that the voter, in his strange way, crushed the right seems to be a message to the acting prime minister: "Take hold of the torch and keep going."