If Mofaz Is Israel's Hope for Change, Then Hope Is All but Lost

So come on, Mofaz, surprise us: Mikhail Gorbachev and F.W. de Klerk started out like you. But we have very serious doubts.

The votes had hardly been counted when the pundits, who had discounted Shaul Mofaz until his victory, erupted with paeans of praise. The abundant accolades that suddenly inundated the new Kadima chairman would not have shamed a great statesman: a man of action, determined, energetic, modest, Mr. Security, Mr. Social Action.

Mofaz himself probably did not know he was all these things, we probably did not know it, until he was elected. One commentator even went so far as to compare him to Harry S. Truman.

The fact that Mofaz hastened to the Western Wall the day after his victory, to be photographed grasping the stones - his gaze fixed on the horizon - and before that laid a wreath on the grave of Theodor Herzl, gave his victory a sense of historic moment. We have not seen a double photo op like that in one day for a long time.

Briefly, it seemed that Mofaz had landed on us from another world, and now that we have discovered his existence and mainly the great promise he embodies, new hope has been kindled in our hearts. That is the way it is when there is no hope, when politics is treading shallow water; when it seems that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will remain in office forever, having no real opponent either inside or outside his party, and there are no major differences among the parties. Suddenly Mofaz is a new and stirring promise.

Well, perhaps we should remember that Mofaz - the very same Mofaz, the same person, the same politician - has been around for many years, and the impression he has left so far has been very limited and sometimes even negative. And we should also remember that this was no more than the election of the head of a dying party, which is shrinking in the polls, even after his election, and which has now chosen its fourth leader in six years. We must remember these things, for the sake of proportion.

For the sake of proportion, we should also remember who we are talking about. All the praise for his "practical conduct," which is no more than clumsy, will not change the fact that he is a gray figure. Perhaps that is not so terrible, but it is no great advantage, either. Does anyone remember one interesting statement by Mofaz? An original idea? That might be said not to be too terrible, either, but to marvel at?

Moving on: The opportunism - one day Likud is home (which one doesn't leave ), and the next day one does leave home - is nothing to brag (and praise him ) about. In the extolment-fest now going on around Mofaz, this has been translated as "pragmatism." So be it.

Mofaz was also one of our crueler defense ministers - no less than 1,705 Palestinians were killed on his watch, including 372 children and teens and 191 targeted killings: that is no great honor, either. True, those were the days of the second intifada, but Mofaz was also one of the fathers of the doctrine of targeted killings, which has been completely forgotten. He was also the one heard whispering into a microphone that Yasser Arafat should be expelled from Ramallah, another genius idea at the time.

"I thought we should strike very hard," he told the Winograd Commission investigating the Second Lebanon War, and in so doing said everything there was to say about his doctrine of warfare and his military-political creed. Perhaps he has changed his mind since then, but it is up to him to prove it, and he has not yet done so.

The peace plan he proposed a few months ago is recycled and, mainly, like most Israeli peace plans, ignores the needs and aspirations of the other side. Mofaz is playing by himself. And in fact, what reason does he have to act differently? To stop the occupation? What for? After all, everything is going just fine. His involvement now in social issues is even more suspicious. Where was he before?

True, Mofaz invented the mofazit - a plastic container to affix rifle magazines to a soldier's belt. But as far as is known, that has been the most creative idea he has come up with so far.

This week's Kadima election was no more than the exchange of a sweaty pair of socks between exhausted soldiers. Tzipi Livni has gone out; Shaul Mofaz has come in. In the Arab-Israeli town of Deir al-Asad, people are happy - perhaps the only place in the country to hang its hopes on Mofaz, to judge by the election results there. The rest of the country is yawning.

So come on, Mofaz, surprise us: Mikhail Gorbachev and F.W. de Klerk started out like you. But we have very serious doubts.