ANALYSIS / Without a Strong Supporting Cast, Livni Is Doomed

If the prime minister were chosen by tender, Livni would not even meet the threshold conditions.

Israel urgently needs a different kind of politics. And Tzipi Livni embodied the promise of this different kind of politics. She talked about a different kind of politics, and to some extent even represented a different kind of politics. Her source of strength was her identification with this different kind of politics.

But in her first real test, Livni did not adhere to a different kind of politics. During the 35 days of grace she received from Kadima members and President Shimon Peres, she did not take a single step that reflected a different kind of politics. And that is where she failed. She did not fail because of naivete or amateurism, but because of a lack of genuine commitment to a different kind of politics.

If the prime minister of Israel were chosen by tender, Livni would not even meet the threshold conditions. She does not have the necessary resume nor any proven achievements. She has no solid experience and no inspirational vision.

Nevertheless, many Israelis placed their trust in Livni, because they felt she was sane, judicious and honest. Many Israelis demonstrated a willingness to follow Livni, because they felt, and rightly so, that she was someone who was genuinely committed to doing the right thing.

Livni promised not to disappoint those who believed in her, but she soon did just that. During a full month of petty and exhausting coalition negotiations, she made endless tactical mistakes. But she made only one strategic mistake: Instead of trying to set up a government of change and hope, she tried to set up a government of continuity and running in place. Instead of trying to rise above our degenerate politics, she became trapped in the spiderweb of this degenerate politics. Livni ought to have known that within this web, she had no chance. Her failure this week was not surprising. It was a failure foretold.

Nevertheless, the hope Livni represents has not been lost. The vehement opposition aroused by the two veterans of the Sayeret Matkal unit who are running against her benefits the foreign minister. And Kadima's location at the center of the political map gives her a real advantage. When major media outlets once again begin dealing with Benjamin Netanyahu, as they were busy doing until recently with Ehud Barak, Livni's failure to form a government will be obscured, and perhaps even forgotten.

But Kadima's chairwoman must be honest with herself and draw far-reaching conclusions from her failure during her first bout as almost-premier. Livni must understand that if she does not surround herself with a high-quality leadership team, she will have no hope. If she does not draft a clear diplomatic program and a comprehensive economic program, she will enjoy no resurrection. Livni must translate her vague slogans into serious proposals for reforming the legal system, the system of government and the education system. If Livni proves that her "different kind of politics" is real, and not just a slogan, she still has a chance to be prime minister.