Who Is the Fairest of Them All?

Kadima is a caricature of a party, not a political organization with roots in Israeli society, and its leadership race is revolving solely around government offices and senior civil service jobs.

Like the queen in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz are asking Kadima activists and voters on a daily basis: Who is the fairest of them all? They are not appealing to party members' sense of responsibility, nor to their ability to discern the candidates' qualifications for leadership; Mofaz and Livni are courting the party's members and Knesset representatives by bowing and scraping: Each urges them to choose him or her because he/she is the most attractive - not because he/she is the most qualified, the most experienced or the most responsible.

Livni recommends that Kadima members choose her because she is leading in the polls. Without her, she claims, Kadima has no chance to continue to be the ruling party. Mofaz is trying to persuade party members to choose him because, he claims, only he is capable of forming a new government in the present Knesset, thereby sparing Kadima the risk of new elections. In other words, he, too, is presenting himself as the candidate with the best chance of ensuring Kadima's continued grasp of the reins of government. Neither of them seems to understand that by choosing this sort of argument, they are continuing in the path of their predecessors - Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and the Likud Central Committee - and nurturing a political culture of which Israelis are sick to death.

At first glance, what could be more legitimate than candidates for a party's leadership appealing to party members in the name of narrow party interests? According to this theory, Kadima members' top concern is choosing the person with the greatest chance of ensuring the party's control over Israel's centers of power. But this view does no honor to Kadima members (some of whom may perhaps be interested in the candidates' qualifications and worldviews, and not just in their attractiveness). And it certainly takes no account of the state's well-being and needs.

Moreover, in Kadima's case, it seems doubtful that the business card Livni and Mofaz are presenting impresses any part of the public. Rather, it is aimed mainly at a few dozen activists and politicians who have gathered by chance under the wings of a virtual party: It is meant to entice them, if not to bribe them outright. After all, Kadima is a caricature of a party, not a political organization with roots in Israeli society, and its leadership race is revolving solely around government offices and senior civil service jobs.

But even if Kadima were a normal party rather than a chance configuration, the method Mofaz and Livni have chosen of appealing to the voters is contemptible. Moreover, it conceals the seeds of retribution, as Likud's fate in the 2006 elections shows: A ruling party turned into a faction of 12 MKs. This reversal occurred both because of the Likud Central Committee's sectarian worldview and because of the egotistical personal conduct of many of its leading members, who dictated positions and decisions to their representatives in the Knesset and the cabinet that aroused the disgust of the general public.

This approach, which is also evident in other parties, is to blame for the poor quality of the Knesset's human material and the miserable, irresponsible parliamentary behavior of the past several years. When the decisive consideration in choosing a party leader is his ability to secure either personal benefits for party activists or narrow sectarian benefits for its voters, who do not consider the general welfare - then either the general public will punish the party at the polls, or it will despair of the political system and waive its right to participate in it.

Israel's experience (as well as that of other democratic countries) shows that not everyone who is considered capable of winning electoral votes proves himself of being a leader in practice. Therefore, Mofaz and Livni are kindly requested to present their ideologies before appealing to Kadima members on the grounds of attractiveness: what vision guides them, where they seek to lead the country, what their positions are on burning issues of the day and what comprises their fundamental view of how the state should look - its character and borders. Instead of boasting of their ability to ensure the party's continued attachment to the government udder, they must inform the public of their plans to calm the conflict with the Palestinians, neutralize the Iranian threat, deter Hezbollah and Hamas, reduce the gaps within society and improve education.

Instead of claiming "I am the fairest," the two must demonstrate talents and achievements that convincingly support their claim that they are indeed fit to lead the country.