A Different Kadima

Under Livni, Kadima has become a strange hybrid that does not represent anything and does not fight for anything - a party without an ideology, achievements or principles.

The creation of Kadima was a good idea. Israel needs a party that will divide the land, set off a governmental and educational revolution, and faithfully represent the silent, evenhanded and pragmatic majority. Israel needs a party that will free it from the muddy and inferior politics it is mired in.

Kadima was based on two pillars upon its establishment. In the diplomatic sphere it offered the path of prime minister Ariel Sharon: not to be blinded by illusions of peace and not to accept the occupation, but to try to give Israel a border. In the political sphere it offered a different type of politics: no more surrendering to the Likud Central Committee and the ultra-Orthodox, but to put the good of the country first. Exchanging sectarian and tribal politics for statesmanlike politics.

From the start Kadima suffered from two defects: Its roster was disappointing and its party rules were draconian. Sharon was never a big democrat. When he finally founded the party, he wanted it to be obedient and subservient. Still, Sharon meant what he said. He was about to divide the country, improve the government and bring about a revolution in education. Had he not had a debilitating stroke four years ago, Sharon would have used Kadima to give Israel a future of hope.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert and opposition leader Tzipi Livni have been unable to give Israel any hope. There is no point in wasting words on Olmert. If he proves his innocence in court as a result of his corruption indictment, it will be possible once again to discuss his achievements and failures in office. But Livni was supposed to be different. Livni was supposed to return Kadima to its origins, advance the two-state solution in a practical, gradual and cautious manner and seriously address the basic problems of government and education. Livni was supposed to be the executor of Sharon's political testament.

Livni has not done any of those things. Her diplomatic policy has been that of the Geneva Initiative rather than Sharon. She both swallowed up Meretz and was swallowed up by it. She shattered Sharon's fundamental belief that it is dangerous to try to achieve a final-status agreement now. She did not represent the Israeli center and turned sharply to the left.

At the same time, Livni did not confront the challenge of education and was indecisive in her approach to the question of government. Her politics have turned out to be talk without action. Her leadership has consisted of declarations without results. Twice she failed in an attempt to form a government. She has continually failed to lead her party. Under Livni, Kadima has become a strange hybrid that does not represent anything and does not fight for anything - a party without an ideology, achievements or principles. A party that has no right to exist.

To Livni's credit it should be said that she is straight as an arrow. Her personal behavior is impeccable. No cigars, no hotel suites, no conflicts of interest. But with the passing of time it has become clear that she is far from statesmanlike. The good of the country is not her highest priority. At a time when Israel needs a strong and broad national unity government, Livni is standing aloof, preoccupied with herself. Instead of implementing a different type of politics, Livni is promoting the brand name of a different type of politics. She is denying Israel the sane government it so badly needs.

The attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to break up Kadima is unworthy. It is no more or less serious than Livni's ugly attempt to break up the Labor Party. The voters who opted for Kadima need this party to represent them in the Knesset. They are not supposed to find the people they elected serving in Likud's parliamentary faction.

However, this week's crisis proves that Kadima is at a crossroads. It is unconscionable for an antidemocratic constitution to make senior party members live in fear. It is unconscionable for Livni to force on an entire party an ideology it does not believe in. It is unconscionable for not enlightening the public about the gap between Livni's image and substance. It is unconscionable for a conspiracy of silence to continue to protect the failed leader of the country's largest party.

The solution is primaries now. Only a fair process of new internal elections can save Kadima from itself. Only an open and honest discussion of the party's policies and leadership can restore Kadima to itself. Israel still needs Kadima, but it needs a different Kadima - a Kadima that can repair itself, renew and be what it was meant to be.