Shaul Mofaz Deserves a Grace Period

Shaul Mofaz is no great ideologue, he lacks charisma and has made no important statements or brilliant comments during his time in politics - yet he still deserves a grace period.

Unlike Evita Peron in the famous musical, Tzipi Livni doesn’t have to burst into the song “Don’t cry for me, Israel” on the balcony. First, because nobody is standing in the city squares shedding a tear over her bitter fate. Second, because Livni brought the embarrassing downfall on herself, through her mistaken actions. And if anyone should cry it’s she, over her own arrogance.

As the head of the country’s largest political party, she missed her opportunity − that’s the simple truth. She is lucky that Kadima’s founder Ariel Sharon is not with us to make her confront the gravity of her own failure, and at the same time her failure to prevent the rise of Kadima’s newly elected leader Shaul Mofaz, for whom he had so little regard. Livni erred not only as the leader of the opposition but also in running her party. With the disdainful “Wonderful, wonderful” that she uttered when Mofaz spoke of the need for primaries, she didn’t understand that belittling Mofaz worked in his favor among voters in the country’s outlying areas.

She lost her image as brilliant and quick-on-the-draw Tzipi, and she also failed to fight against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and didn’t want to, or couldn’t, join his government in order to exert an influence and stop its dead-end policy. Her failure to control Kadima looks like a cheap romance novel that even Sara, the wife of you-know-who, would not have been able to write. Like this writer, we can assume that quite a few of those who are disappointed with the path of this government, and even fear for the fate of the country and for their personal situation, will not have good memories of Livni’s strange behavior as opposition leader.

It’s not pleasant to admit that the right-wing, extremist, ultra-Orthodox government won. It will continue to rule until there is a disaster at least as great as the Yom Kippur War. It’s too early to say that this is the first shot at moving up the elections. Livni’s defeat symbolizes a greater move to the right. And when we say “the right” we should explain that we’re not talking only about a refusal to return to the 1967 borders, but about a social atmosphere that says that under no circumstances can we rely on the other side or talk to them. Israel is the schlub who lacks initiative, who says forget about the big intellectuals like David Grossman, Amos Oz, et al.

The entire world is against us − including all the bleeding-heart liberals in Israel. This is reflected in the winds blowing from the bleachers of Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, and in the atmosphere of intolerance, which receives its spiritual nourishment from the right-wing freebie newspaper Israel Hayom in the morning and from the immensely popular reality show “Big Brother” in the evening.

Mofaz’s trick − distributing a poster with the words “Mofaz, Prime Minister” below his portrait − did its job in the primaries. But he is far from reaching that goal. As opposed to Livni, who was barely seen in the field, with her arrogance and her disdain for her critics written all over her face, Mofaz was everywhere, always dressed in a suit and tie, and the smell of his aftershave seemed to send a message of “a leader is born.” In these primaries the outlying areas defeated Tel Aviv, although it’s not quite certain that the words of MK Ruhama Avraham Balila, that “Mofaz created momentum,” are accurate.

Mofaz does not like the image of being the victor for ethnic reasons. Livni was rightfully rejected, and even if Mofaz had more organized voters in the campaign and used vote contractors, I wouldn’t join those who show disdain for him. He’s no great ideologue. He doesn’t have that special quality that one expects from a charismatic leader. The only thing to his credit − he has already served as the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and as defense minister, and he probably has organizational ability. Compared to Yair Lapid and Shelly Yacimovich, two former journalists, he is more a doer than a talker.

A veteran observer of the political system mourns the fact that Mofaz − six or seven years after ending his service in the defense establishment − has not made any important statement or brilliant comment in the diplomatic, security or social spheres. That is a point that comes up from time to time and from year to year − the longing for the natural leaders we once had, with a vision and political courage, and now the cupboard is bare. Just when important events are taking place all around us we have no truly great and visionary leaders in reserve.

At this difficult time, when the winds of war are all around us and the government is lusting for battle instead of nurturing peace, the very fact that Mofaz succeeded in ousting Livni and placing himself at the head of a party of 28 MKs means he is certainly deserving of 100 days of grace. It’s not ideal, but that’s what there is.