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Leave Shaul alone!

Is Netanyahu's new minister-without-portfolio an Israeli Britney Spears?

Four years ago we all witnessed a familiar scene — the meltdown of a pop diva named Britney Spears. After Whitney Huston and Maraih Carey it was Britney’s turn to self-destruct in front of the paparazzi. Images of a bald and naked Spears appeared daily on the Hollywood gossip websites. In fact, the frenzy was of such proportions that one gossip site decided to create a daily timeline enabling readers to follow Spears as she went down the rabbit hole.

Yet even in her darkest hour, Spears could rely on the support and love of her most loyal fans. One such fan decided to speak out on her behalf and demand that we all just “leave Brittney alone!” His impassioned plea, which was posted on YouTube, soon became one of the most popular videos on the site, and as of May 2012, has garnered more than 43 million views.


This week, Israelis witnessed another familiar scene: a backdoor political deal by an opposition party to join the government and postpone possible elections.

While I am not a fan of Shaul Mofaz, I find myself in an odd position. Since news of Kadima’s agreement to join the Likud government first broke, reporters, websites, analysts and politicians have all attacked Kadima’s newly elected leader. He has been called a shameless opportunist, a coward and a liar; he’s even been made the target of a Noy Alooshe YouTube remix:

Well, I, for one, have decided to stand up for Mofaz and scream: Leave Shaul alone!

After all, what did you expect?

For one thing, Mofaz is a member of Kadima, a political party established for the single purpose of enabling then-prime minister Ariel Sharon to do whatever he wanted. Kadima was never a movement with a clearly defined ideology; it was a rescue boat filled with politicians jumping off Titanics like Labor and Likud. In joining the government, Mofaz was acting in accordance with Kadima’s opportunistic tradition, and made his fellow party members proud.

Second, Mofaz is already known to be a bit of a flip-flopper. In 2005, he wrote Likud party members a personal letter stating that the Likud is his home and one does not leave home so easily. Mofaz added that he had decided to stay in the Likud despite the fact that he was offered the role of minister of defense should he join Sharon in the newly established Kadima party.

Less then a week later Mofaz hopped on the Ariel Sharon Express.

One should also bear in mind that in his first speech after winning the Kadima primaries, Mofaz stated that he planned to be the champion of the Israeli middle class and lead the battle for social reform. What better way to help over-taxed Israelis than to serve as yet another useless and jobless minister in the largest government in Israel’s history? Now Mofaz will have at his disposal an office, a team of secretaries, aides and body guards, and a brand new Volvo with which to ensure that relief for the beleaguered masses is on its way.

It’s true that Mofaz has attacked Netanyahu many times in the past. It’s also true that Mofaz went so far as to call the Prime Minister a liar:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is lying… he is lying to the citizens of Israel in economic matters, he is lying to young people in Israel and he is lying to the State of Israel in matters of foreign affairs.

But this was probably just friendly banter between two soldiers. It was never meant to be taken literally.

Actually, if anyone should come under attack, it’s the head of the Labor party, Shelly Yachimvich. Her insistence on staying out of Netanyahu’s government prevents Israeli citizens from having a truly great coalition — one with 102 members as opposed to 18 members in an opposition consisting of Meretz, the Arab parties and National Union. That way we could have a Jewish coalition and what is essentially an Arab opposition — Israeli democracy at its finest!

Oops!... He did it again. Mofaz flip-flops with Netanyahu (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Oops!... He did it again. Mofaz flip-flops with Netanyahu (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In contrast to Mofaz, Netanyahu has been hailed as the greatest politician in Israeli history, a mastermind who pulled of a masterstroke. But both Netanyahu and Mofaz are mistaken if they think that their cynical wheeling and dealing will be forgotten by Israeli voters. There will be a day of reckoning.

This is not the end of the Netanyahu government. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

About the Author
Ilan Manor is finishing his mass media studies at Tel Aviv University. He has previously contributed to the Jerusalem Post, +972 Magazine, the Jewish Daily Forward and On Second Thought magazine. His Hebrew-language blog has been featured several times in the Israeli press.