Unity of Opportunists

Just hours before the Knesset had to make the final vote on its dissolution, Israel’s biggest opportunists, Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz cut a deal to bring Kadima into the government. Lots of commentators told us how brilliant this manoeuvre is and how it can benefit the State of Israel, however I strongly disagree with them.

There isn’t any brilliance but just pure opportunism of Bibi and Mofaz. The Prime Minister, who knew he is going to struggle with demolishing two settlements (as ordered by the High Court) and within his own party been embarrassed by right-wingers, did what he is really good at: opting for survival rather than for the good of his people. Mofaz, who knew that Kadima will be finished in the next elections, just bought himself some time.

The problem is that this government doesn’t represent the wishes of the Israelis. When elections took place in 2009, it was Tzipi Livni who got the mandate to form a government. Her principles were to form a government without the orthodox parties, but Bibi who couldn’t see how power slipped from his fingers after a promising lead in the polls, decided to cut a deal with the Orthodox and to create a bloc and by that to prevent Livni from forming the real unity party that Israeli voters wished for.

Since the last elections, Livni lost a leadership battle to Mofaz and Ehud Barak seceded from Labour to form Ha’Atzmaut in order to stay in Government. What is the outcome? A Government which includes a Prime Minister which came to power only by cutting a deal with Orthodox parties, a Defence Minister who lost all credibility and clings to his seat, and now a Deputy PM who didn’t get mandate from people who voted Kadima (those people mainly voted because of Livni, not Mofaz).

The real idea behind this government is not to have a stable government which can make progress in the peace process, nor to introduce an alternative to the Tal Law or to make electoral reforms. The real idea behind this deal is to delay the end of Kadima and to help Bibi survive the challenges that he faced inside and outside his party and mainly to try and again diminish the social protest which was planned for the summer.

To claim that Bibi is a winner is ludicrous – in fact there are no winners here just losers, and those who lose the most are Israel’s citizens who have no faith in the current leadership. There can still be two politicians who can benefit from this deal: The first is Yair Lapid who formed recently his new party Yesh Atid and enjoys good poll ratings, and the second and probably more important is Shelly Yachimovich, leader of the Israeli Labour Party who became Leader of the Opposition. The Israeli Labour Party lost a lot of its credibility in the last decade by crawling into every possible government that was formed. With Yachimovich in Opposition, the party repairs its damaged reputation and hopes to double its size in the next elections.

And what about Livni? No one knows what her plans at the moment, some say she will join Lapid and some say she might form a new party. The sure thing is that this unity government proved that Livni’s ideas to bring ‘different politics’ to Israel were right and needed. Livni who had the chance to form a government didn’t sell herself or her principles out and for that she deserves credit and appreciation.

At the end of the day no one should be surprised from this shameful deal. The king of zigzags and the one who called him just few weeks ago a ‘liar’ shake hands with the common goal of survival. But their survival is not guaranteed because Israel’s citizens will take to the streets to demand new elections and a change of government. Mofaz can’t be taken seriously as the one who represent those who call for social justice, while Bibi ignores them anyway. Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as: Government of the people, by the people, for the people – Israel’s citizens have a chance to bring this definition into practice.

About the Author
Tal Ofer is a former parliamentary researcher and now Deputy at the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He actively fights antisemitism and delegitimisation of Israel. In Summer 2014 he masterminded a campaign to target Tricycle Theater donors, which led to reverse of boycott of UK Jewish Film Festival.