The Big Bloc

What exactly makes Kadima an opposition to the government? What is the difference between it and Labor in the coalition, apart from opportunism?

The prime minister's speech signifies the end of parties in Israel. After this speech we can close down not only Labor's headquarters in the Hatikva Quarter, as the party's new ideologist Weizmann Shiri did, but all the parties' headquarters. They are not needed anymore. Israel now has only one party, like in certain regimes, and all the rest is a masquerade.

Masquerade sums up the "ideological" difference among the Zionist parties. After Benjamin Netanyahu finally did everyone a favor and said yes to two states, there is no longer any difference between Likud, Kadima, Labor, Meretz and even Yisrael Beiteinu - the big bloc of Israeli politics. How depressing to realize that all ideological differences have blurred, leaving no distinction between the various parties' ways.

Make no mistake. This is not an ideological consensus, as strange as that would be in an open society. It's the loss of ideology. Not unanimity but the death of clear, binding opinion. Everyone recites the same mantras, and nobody intends to do anything about them. Today no microscope is capable of distinguishing between Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak's approach to the peace process. Nor is there any social or economic difference between them. They all mumble the same hackneyed slogans, reflecting the same perverse self-righteousness.

What exactly makes Kadima an opposition to the government? What is the difference between it and Labor in the coalition, apart from opportunism? With the exception of the religious and Arab parties and the radical right-wing fringe, Israel's political map is alarmingly uniform. A big white stain or, to be exact, a black stain.

First to die were the party newspapers. From about 20 daily newspapers, most of them party-affiliated, we are left with three to four commercial newspapers, disturbingly homogenous, for an immensely larger population. There are no longer any ideological differences between one paper and another except for the newspaper you're reading now.

After the newspapers, the ideological movements' activities died, too, and the parties' branches were abandoned. They come to life only with the vote contractors in the primaries. Where are the days when in Labor alone there were five or six ideological circles, with clear, sharp boundaries between them? Where are the days when you said right and left, hawks and doves, and you knew what you were talking about? Who is left and who is right today? Who's a hawk and who's a dove? Is Tzachi Hanegbi of Kadima more left than Dan Meridor of Likud? Is the settler Otniel Schneller of Kadima more dovish than Likud's Michael Eitan, who has moved to Sderot? Everything is one sticky mess, a thick, uniform, extremely irksome dough. It is also dangerous. Nothing can kill ideological debate and blind and dull the mind like complete agreement and blurring.

Who's to blame? First and foremost, the various national unity governments, which effaced the boundary lines.

The next elections will therefore resemble a tender for a franchise. Each party will present its managers in a glossy brochure, and the tender committee - the voting public - will decide if it prefers Livni's new stylish wardrobe, Barak's backslaps or the dapper Netanyahu. They will ensure the same thing - yes, peace, of course, peace - but none of them will lift a finger to advance it. The voter could choose one of them by flipping a coin, and they could compile their lists in eenie, meenie, miny, moe fashion: Shaul Mofaz to Likud, Meridor to Kadima, and Barak could go either way or the other way around. If you thought the previous election campaign was boring, just wait for the next round.

This uniformity is especially depressing when you look at what the parties have produced - a bunch of young-old politicians who are their predecessors' clones and imitators. Danny Danon instead of Danny Naveh. The Knesset is a wilderness. Nor are there any reserves outside. The Israel Defense Forces no longer supplies sham stars, and just as well. Academia is appallingly gray, and the business world is doing its own thing. A look at the backbenches shows not even the slightest hope for an Israeli Barack Obama. Gila Gamliel? Ofir Akunis?

A week ago ideology died, this time for good. The only "revolutionary" thing Netanyahu threw us was a smoke grenade. Henceforth, everything on the political map is in a fog. That was the new "big bang" - a one-party, single-ideology state regime.