Operation Pillar of Defense dispersed what little fog still shrouded the election campaign. Flight 22113 will take off on time, en route to its objectives, which will, of course, be diplomatic/security related, first and foremost. You don't have to read anyone's lips to know that it's not the economy, stupid. Not this time, either. Nor will it be social justice or "where's the money?"
Still, this election campaign will apparently be somewhat different from its predecessors. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to achieve what no prime minister, from David Ben-Gurion to Ehud Olmert, ever managed to achieve.
It's possible that, for the first time, the prime minister will be the only candidate in a position to form the next government. There is no leader competing against him who can undermine his position, and no diplomatic alternative to his leadership. At this, point, almost at the eleventh hour for submitting lists of Knesset candidates, all that stands between Netanyahu and his formation of the next government is a weak opposition.
This is bad for Israeli politics and dangerous for democracy. It's bad and dangerous for our future in the Middle East. If we think about this objectively, it's also not so good for Netanyahu, who will have Naftali Bennett hitting him from the right, and Shelly Yacimovich caressing from the left (fine, don't say "left," say social democrats. The Labor Party was never left! ).
The election will not take place under the deluge of a diplomatic tsunami, but in a few days, Iran and the nuclear threat will return to the agenda, along with the deep changes taking place in the Middle East. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will go to the United Nations. The relatively quiet West Bank is liable to destabilize and no one knows how long, if at all, the restored deterrence will deter the Gaza terror groups, or if our cities will once again be subject to terror attacks.
Operation Pillar of Defense helped us forget, for eight days, what it was comfortable for us to suppress: That between one military confrontation and the next, between the Marmara [the 2010 IDF raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship] and Pillar of Defense, the Israel led by Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is diplomatically paralyzed. It offers no initiatives or proposals. It is hunkered down behind its red lines. It does nothing to promote the principle of "two states for two peoples," ostensibly accepted by its government, using the imbecilic excuse that there's no one to talk to, certainly not in Hamastan (which this week won a moment of rebirth ).
In a nutshell, between one military confrontation and the next, Israel does its best to do nothing at all.
On Thursday morning I heard our defense minister once again list the difficulties we'll have to live with between the military confrontations. "Whoever can't handle it can go live in Finland, or along the Italian-Swiss border." Israel, of course, is the "villa in the jungle," according to Barak. Well it's time to make a correction: the Middle East indeed looks very often like a jungle, but a villa? Where's the villa? There hasn't been a villa here for ages. And the option of moving to the Italian-Swiss border doesn't look like such a bad idea, on condition that the defense establishment dismantle our homes and move them to Europe.
After Operation Pillar of Defense - an intensive eight-day seminar for beginning leaders - one can say about Yacimovich and Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid that if it doesn't think like an opposition or talk like an opposition it's not an opposition. And these elections need an opposition, not a youth group.
It won't be Olmert. It will apparently be Tzipi Livni. In the past I've written that when the Labor party has 10 Amram Mitznas, it will return to power. Ask Yacimovich why she doesn't have such people at her side.
In the 2009 elections, candidates Netanyahu and Barak shot a barb at Livni: Which prime minister would you prefer to have answering the phone in the middle of the night, they asked. After four years, the answer is clear. It's neither Netanyahu nor Barak.