A Clear Message Is Needed

There is a need for ideological honing and more credibility, because the question of what Sharon's legacy is remains open.

The concept of legacy appears for the first time in the book of Deuteronomy: "Moses gave us a law, an inheritance for the people of Jacob." It means a spiritual legacy, an ideological possession that passes from generation to generation, a well-ordered teaching, a solid world of values, clear milestones that a leader leaves to direct his followers.

While Ariel Sharon is on his deathbed, public discourse is already full of discussion of his legacy. The heads of Kadima are adopting his worldview as theirs and in associating themselves with it, they are seeking the public's trust. Lacking the leader himself, his political cohorts rise to speak for him. They pretend to know what he would do if he had continued to function, and they ask the voters to continue supporting them by claiming that they are continuing on his path. That is expected and even legitimate behavior under the circumstances in which Kadima finds itself. However, there is a need for ideological honing and more credibility, because the question of what Sharon's legacy is remains open.

After disengagement, the prime minister announced that there would be no more withdrawals. He also said the separation fence did not mark permanent borders and approved construction in the area separating Ma'aleh Adumim from Jerusalem. In recent weeks, government funds have continued to flow to the settlements, including the illegal ones, and the army continues to avoid removing illegal outposts.

Meanwhile, sources close to Sharon continued to send signals that during his next term as prime minister he intended to carry out a move similar to the one in Gaza and the northern West Bank. He spoke of working toward a long-term interim solution, but sources close to him let the media know that he would make efforts to stabilize Israel behind permanent borders.

These contradictions can be easily understood: a politician does not show all his cards. To implement his political plans he has to create a fog through which only he knows how to navigate. The problem in this case is Sharon's sudden departure from the political arena and the basic inability to tell whether his zig-zagging was ritual only.

A task has therefore been laid at Kadima's door: to clearly formulate the legacy of its founder. This is not only a challenge but also a major opportunity. Sharon's great popularity, which only increased with the drama of illness, is an invaluable electoral asset that invites daring in the presentation of the stands involving compromise that have been attributed to him.

The lurking danger for Kadima is that it will end up like Dash [the Democratic Movement for Change founded in 1976 by Yigael Yadin]. To save itself from this fate, it must first and foremost offer the public a clear path. Offering the names of famous politicians as PR sleight of hand will not be enough. Rapid organization and the setting up of internal procedures will not suffice, nor even will peace in the beehive. A party that intends to lead the country must persuade the people that it bears a message, that it has a plan of action.

Kadima has so far made public the gist of its political platform, which is mainly the acceptance of the establishment of a Palestinian state as long as all elements of the conflict between the two peoples, including the demand of the right of return, are resolved. That is a reasonable way to go, but too general, since the document itself states that Israel will keep "essential security zones," "places of national and historic importance," "major settlement blocs" and a "united Jerusalem." With a prescription like that, the conflict cannot be solved.

Since Kadima apparently represents the center of Israeli public opinion, so that it will not become a mere passing mood, the party must translate its political outlook into a practical program, one that is acceptable to the other side. In their present formulation, Kadima's political principles do not differentiate it sufficiently from the Benjamin Netanyahu-led Likud. And that much is clear about Sharon's legacy - he wanted to move away from Likud and Netanyahu.