The largest party in Israel is selecting its leader on Tuesday, but this political event is not attracting much attention. Thus it is the most persuasive illustration possible for the decline of that party, the main opposition party, Kadima. A party that blew in like a storm - after its founder, Ariel Sharon, left Likud over his daring Gaza disengagement plan - is now slowly dying. For the first time in Israeli history, a party other than Labor or Likud became the biggest. Now, seven years after it was created, it is slowly being wiped off the political map. Israel has probably never known such a resounding political failure.
The assumption is that whether it is Tzipi Livni or Shaul Mofaz who is chosen Tuesday as Kadima's candidate for prime minister, they will not be able to repair the damage the party has inflicted on itself. The day after the last general election, Livni took a praiseworthy and principled stand: She refused to join a right-wing government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But since then she has not missed a single opportunity to make a mistake: She did not function as an opposition leader, she did not offer an alternative to the government's policies and she did not lead her party wisely and set clear policy.
Kadima, which purported represent the center, quickly became for all intents and purposes a right-wing party, some of whose elected representatives are involved in passing anti-democratic and nationalistic laws. Livni was incapably of keeping these wild weeds from taking over Kadima, and neither did her party rival, Mofaz.
The result was democracy without opposition and a party without policy. The punishment for this sin: declining poll numbers and turning, despite its size, into an irrelevant party.
Kadima's members will be asked on Tuesday to choose between two very different candidates.
It is difficult to see Kadima, in its current situation, as a viable option. Livni is more convincing than Mofaz because she will not join Netanyahu's coalition after the election, and that is a good reason to support her if one believes she has truly learned from her mistakes. Kadima members who are set on changing the leadership must support Mofaz, while recognizing that they could see him joining a right-wing government.
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