The Vacuum Test

It is hard to claim that the present post-electoral period is providing dramatic surprises as compared to previous times.

There is no need to put people into arbitrary "Big Brother" situations to discover their true character. The interim period between one government and the next also does the job well, at least when it comes to politicians. But in the political reality show the entertainment is reserved for the viewers only: Those participating in the game of musical chairs of positions and appointments do so with profound seriousness, one reason being that most of them simply have nowhere to go.

It's hard to claim that the present post-electoral period is providing dramatic surprises as compared to previous times. What remains is the pathetic behavior of "our ministers" from the Labor Party, who are running around crazed and miserable, like clones of King Lear, as they are being ejected from the throne. What remains is the nervousness and hysteria of "senior Likud members" - with the permanent house band of Silvan Shalom, Limor Livnat and Ruby Rivlin - in the recycled horror show "elbow your way as best as you can to the cabinet table, with the familiar mix of obsequiousness and threats." And here once again, the same melancholy of the left, and again the fear on the right that they will be granted exclusive adult responsibility.

If there is anything new about the present episode, it is reflected in the extreme callousness and lack of shame: in the open egocentricity of Ehud Barak, in the panicked obsession of Benjamin Netanyahu to return to the premiership at any price, in the chutzpah of Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beiteinu. All these are leaving their voters with feelings of bitterness, waste and deception that exceed the usual familiar dosage.

However, because this is not a game but our future, it would be a mistake to dismiss this entire sight as a flea circus, and lump all the politicians into one repulsive package.

It's true that they are all motivated by personal passions; and yet with a bit of effort we can still discern quite a number of features that distinguish between two types of politicians: those who are motivated by a desire for private advancement alone, and those who are motivated by a sense of vision and responsibility beyond themselves. In the past this was called "vision," "a path" and a sense of "mission."

Do these things still exist? Can we still quietly send them our best?

Ostensibly, in our cynical age it is already hard to distinguish between the types of motives; and yet, it is possible that there is one litmus test with which one can still distinguish between the acid and the base in politics, namely, the willingness on the part of the politicians to assume an "undignified" job, which is both thankless and involves hard work.

Such a test is being carried out before our eyes at present, and those who are failing in a big way are mainly the senior Likudniks. They are rejecting ministries such as Finance, Infrastructure or Industry, Trade and Employment, but are drooling - even without a vision or a rational plan - over "dignified" ministries which involve perks and gestures of honor and status, such as the foreign ministry or "deputy prime minister."

And in order to remind everyone that this is not a one-time incident but a kind of political culture, it's enough to mention the rich terminology that has sprung up in this party surrounding what is seen more as "sharing the wealth" than as assuming responsibility. The nickname kuftaot (dumplings - a term coined by former prime minister Ariel Sharon in connection with jobs, ministries and other goodies distributed to those who are elected) with which Sharon fed Likud members and kept them happy, and the unforgettable shout of agreement of the central committee, "Yes!" to Limor Livnat's rhetorical question: "Were we elected in order to distribute jobs to ourselves?"

You may say, at least they're honest, less hypocritical that those self-righteousness Mapainiks or Laborites who wrapped themselves in the cloak of "the mission" when they yearned for exactly the same "kuftaot." And of course, any such generalized dichotomy between responsible, diligent and hard-working Mapainiks, who were ready to bear the burden of any hard work for the good of the country, and lazy and hedonistic Likudniks, who pursue only gestures of honor - would be unfair to many good people in both camps.

And nevertheless, the flagrancy of the present situation, in which the hacks of one party contemptuously avoid exactly the same ministries for which the hacks of the former ruling party, weakened and pathetic, would give their souls to "dirty their hands," illustrates the abyss that has opened in the heart of Israeli politics.

This is a vacuum that is now awaiting a genuine "ruling party," one that is seriously aware of its responsibility and its mission, and is ready even - excuse the expression - for the work and sacrifice involved.