A Dreary Bore

The good news is that in 10 days, it will all be over. The bad news is that in 10 days it will only be beginning. February 10 will spell an end to one of the dreariest, most boring and incomprehensible campaign that we've had in years.

A month later, a new cabinet will begin its path. That government will be rife with conflicts and contradictions and it will not be able to draw out its tortured existence for very long. It will suffer from an impossible system which will bring in 12 or 13 new parties into the Knesset.

The performance by the three major party leaders - Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, Ehud Barak of Labor and Kadima's Tzipi Livni - on television yesterday did not help this campaign rise above.

It was a make-believe debate, styled on an American model. But in fact, it was not an American-style debate. In the United States, questions by surfers were integrated into debates in real-time, to deliver difficult and piercing journalistic queries.

In Israel, one candidate replaced the other on a conveyer-belt rotation system. The dramatic peaks of the event occurred when the candidates shook hands with one another. Real live drama. The questions were as predictable as the answers. Netanyahu, the leading candidate, was the only one whose address yielded a headline. "Iran will not arm itself with nuclear weapons," he said with a menacing expression.

But he wasn't asked what would become of this vow if U.S. President Barack Obama didn't authorize an Israeli strike. After all, we alone cannot carry out this mission, despite assurances from Netanyahu's election slogan telling us he is "strong on security."

Netanyahu knew how to send out a rightist message about not uprooting settlements and about Israel's Arab population, while promising the public that toy we all want: A national-unity coalition.

A question about Gilad Shalit was for some reason addressed to Ehud Barak, who joined the government one year after the Israeli soldier's abduction by Hamas.

Tzipi Livni, who presided in decision-making forums from the very first day, was spared that unpleasant moment.

Instead of unexpected questions, we received light entertainment. A comedy show.