“Listen carefully: I will not join Bibi’s government. Not today, not tomorrow, and not after I become head of Kadima on March 28th. This is an evil, failing, and pig-headed government and Kadima, under my leadership, will succeed it in the next elections. Clear enough?
–Shaul Mofaz Facebook Wall, March 3rd, shortly before he won the Kadima party leadership
Loud and clear, Mr. Chairman (original Hebrew Facebook post here). But something happened between this statement made a few weeks ago and yesterday. Kadima’s new leader, Shaul Mofaz, agreed at the eleventh hour to join the Netanyahu government in order to stave off his party’s electoral implosion at the polls come September. The gambit is wholly cynical and dismal. The deal will give his party a single ministerial post, and a meaningless one at that: minister for Palestinian affairs. He also gets the honorific: senior vice prime minister. That and three bucks will get you a latte…somewhere. So in return for providing Netanyahu’s governing coalition the single largest bloc of seats it has, Mofaz gets a made-up, virtually meaningless portfolio. Some deal.
Mofaz will attempt to create movement in a process for which his new boss wants no movement. Which means that either Mofaz will join Bibi’s weird Kabuki drama pretending to make peace but doing nothing of the sort; or else Mofaz will take his new job seriously and quickly realize he’s been snookered and co-opted by Bibi, who will surely allow no one but him to run Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.
Kadima MKs can only have agreed to this devil’s bargain because they know most of them would be out of jobs after September. Any honorable or even half-way honorable party would’ve gone to the people before agreeing to such a sham. But Israeli politics is full of opportunism, corruption and naked greed. It’s a bit like the old Tammany Hall, except that it encompasses an entire country, rather than a single city.
Mofaz will now have a vote to determine whether Israel goes to war with Iran. It’s not believed Mofaz supports such a venture. But his new vantage point at Bibi’s right-hand might give him fresh “insight” into the existential threat posed by Iran.
Finally, this cynical backroom deal guarantees a long, hot summer for the kingmakers. The J14 social justice movement that swept Israel last summer will almost certainly return with a vengeance, since it was initially fueled by a deep malaise among the populace toward precisely this sort of shenanigans. Mofaz, who only a few weeks ago claimed (laughably) that he would lead the new social justice protests (who asked him, anyway?), will be their butt instead.
Just after George Bush won an easy victory in the 2004 elections and Bush-Cheney triumphalism was the Republican order of the day, I wrote that hubris was the bane of successful politicians. Indeed, within four years Bush had become a political irrelevancy and his seeming brilliant electoral performance faded into oblivion. Bibi is even more prone to this sort of hubris and will almost certainly see his “deal of the century” as a divine affirmation of his call to lead his people to…to what? To something. Bibi will have to fill in the blank with something. But as today’s Haaretz notes, today’s triumph could easily and rapidly turn into tomorrow’s laughingstock.
Color me: disgusted.