In or Out, Who Cares?

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposes to opposition leader Tzipi Livni that she join his government in the 1967 format, he alludes to a number of interesting assumptions.

First, Bibi suddenly appears in the role of prime minister Levi Eshkol - vive la difference. Second, Tzipi and Shaul Mofaz step into the shoes of Menachem Begin and Moshe Dayan.

Third, I guess mass demonstrations are going on in the streets under the banner "Tzipi and Shaul to the government," so an entire nation must be calmed. Fourth, and this is the main assumption, war is a foregone conclusion, only the time is unknown. Thus 2010 dawns with great promise.

The two will meet this evening, but there is no need to start holding your breath in the morning. If Kadima does not join now, it will join later, because it can't stand being in the opposition. Israel is the only democracy in the world that views the opposition as a reduction in dignity. People still do not realize here that without a worthy opposition there is no worthy democracy.

But several conditions must be met to function as an opposition: You have to give up ministerial benefits for a time, you have to believe with perfect faith that your party is a real alternative, you have to believe that your fellow party members, while they are not angels, are quality people with clean hands.

It is no less than preposterous to talk about "different politics" when the following people in your party line up behind you: Eli Aflalo, Ruhama Avraham Balila, Ronit Tirosh, Tzachi Hanegbi, Otniel Schneller, Haim Ramon, Shaul Mofaz, Dalia Itzik, Ehud Olmert, Abraham Hirchson, Nachman Shai and a few others who sprang from Ariel Sharon's loins. This group portrait with lady is not exactly a portrait of new faces. Only clearly left-wing voters could cast their lone ballot for Kadima.

When Livni finally does show her cards, it might turn out that there is no difference between her, Netanyahu and Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, unless we are mistaken about her and she is for a total construction freeze in the settlements including Jerusalem, truly getting rid of the unauthorized outposts, a withdrawal to the Green Line when the time comes, dividing Jerusalem into two capitals and evacuating the Golan in exchange for peace with Syria. For the time being, we will make do with little - a clear position against removing Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.

That is the tragedy of Israeli politics. People change parties as if they were changing hats; only chance leads them to one party or another. These people will not abandon the "center of the map," the Archimedes Point of any successful Israeli career.

This magical and seductive "center" allows one to move freely from right to left, backward and forward. Anyone outside the warm and cushioned cradle of the national consensus is "extreme." Anyone who does not rock back and forth between yes and no in one breath, but rather picks one side or the other, is "marginal."

Whether Kadima joins or doesn't, what difference does it make? No alternative in terms of ideology or individuals emerged from this party when it was out; certainly no alternative will emerge when it is in. And where there is no alternative, there is no hope for change.

If at least Netanyahu were willing to courageously give up Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas for Kadima. If not, this will be another round of musical chairs. And woe to the ears that will soon be hearing that Netanyahu seeks Livni's hand and that of her colleagues not to negotiate and conclude a peace agreement, but together to cast more lead.