By sheer accident, two politicians crossed paths on our television screens on Tuesday: one, Yair Lapid, on his way up, and the other, Tzipi Livni, on her way down.
He is young and fresh, with his future before him. She is wounded and defeated, with her future shrouded in fog. And as if everything else she has gone through over the last month weren't enough, even her parting speech was pushed into second billing on the news broadcasts by Lapid's maiden speech. Even this primacy was taken from her.
Lapid and Livni are the two politicians who, more than any others, nod and wink at what is termed "the white tribe" - the veteran Ashkenazi public. The differences between them go no deeper than the thickness of the teleprompter from which Lapid read his remarks.
One could easily envision them cooperating in the same party, though that isn't expected to happen. What an irony it is that just as she leaves the stage, he is entering. Evidently, politics abhors a vacuum.
Lapid's appearance yesterday at Tel Aviv's Beit Hatfutsot went off flawlessly. He reminds one of the young Benjamin Netanyahu, back when he was just beginning his political career: the same mannerisms, the same talents, the same head of hair.
Lapid laid out his program for drafting Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews ) and Arabs. In one sense, this is a realistic program, neither overly harsh nor overly lenient. He understands that when the law governing draft exemptions for yeshiva students expires on August 1, it won't be possible to immediately draft thousands of Haredim into the army. Lapid's solution is to continue the existing draft exemptions for another five years, while beginning mandatory service - either military or civilian - only in 2017.
But in another sense, his program is a flight from reality. Why five years rather than two? The people want equality of service now, not in another five years - after two more elections, two new Knessets and two or more new governments, and perhaps even after the next war.
But in any case, Lapid's plan will remain no more than a campaign advertisement. He has already announced that he intends to join whatever government is formed after the next election. If the said government does indeed deal once and for all with the decades-old open wound of draft-dodging, Lapid's plan will be one of many submitted to the committee that will presumably be set up to draft legislation on the subject.
Just as it makes sense to start getting used to the idea of Lapid's presence in the next cabinet, one can safely predict that Livni won't be there. Her associates told anyone who would listen yesterday that in her view, "all the options are open." But let's admit the truth: Her options are shrinking. She has no real cards up her sleeve.
She is still popular enough that she could set up her own party and win enough seats to enter the 19th Knesset. But that doesn't interest her. It seems the option she is really counting on is panic in her own party - the hope that in another few weeks, Kadima will begin sinking in the polls and its frightened MKs will make a pilgrimage to her door.
And then, at the last possible moment before the party's slate is handed in to the Central Elections Committee, they will oust Shaul Mofaz and put her in charge of the party once again.
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