Sunday, March 26, 2006

The problem with Kadima is not its policies or even its lack of policies. Rather, the problem is that the method and motivation of Kadima’s conception, gestation, birth and infancy are all testimony to the power of the totalitarian impulse.

The earliest germination of the Kadima idea can be found in Omri Sharon’s destruction of the Likud Central Committee (LCC). LCC was always a rowdy and unaesthetic organization but when all was said and done, it was a reasonable expression of popular democracy. Omri brought in hard-core criminals, introduced tactics of intimidation and provocation and ran the whole thing like a personal fiefdom. All the while he knew that in the end he’d bolt and leave the Likud with the mess.

In the meantime, Papa Sharon showed contempt for his party members (e.g. ignoring the referendum), for the Likud MKs and his own cabinet (which he never consulted and whose members were under constant threat) and for all those who voted for him under false pretenses. Instead, his advisors were spinmeisters (Eyal Arad and Reuvain Adler) and a cabal of corrupt businessmen and their equally corrupt lawyers (Martin Schlaff, Dubi Weissglas, the late and unlamented Yossi Ginosar). Sharon fired those security people who weren’t old family friends (Boogi Yaalon) and replaced them with cronies (Meir Dagan, Dan Halutz, et al). He cultivated relationships with select press hacks who set the tone (Yoel Marcus et al) and otherwise never directly addressed the public.

Kadima was created for the purpose of avoiding the hassle of dealing with party institutions that force discussion, negotiation and compromise. Such institutions exist in democratic countries for a reason: they slow progress in order to prevent costly errors and force consensus building. The impulse to destroy such institutions in order to get things done is precisely what sets weak democracies on a course towards totalitarianism. If messy popular institutions don't serve as an engine and filter for policy-making, their place is taken by a smaller, self-interested oligarchy of rich and powerful cronies of politicians.

Sharon's – and Kadima's – choice of Olmert to lead the party is no accident. Olmert’s entire career has been distinguished by his ability to trade influence for money. He has cultivated the rich and powerful and represented their interests at both the municipal and national level. As Minister of Industry and Commerce, he mostly looked out for monopolies and largely undid Bibi’s efforts to liberalize and democratize the economy. Ari Shavit’s article in Haaretz a few days ago should send shivers up anybody’s spine.

Kadima’s takeover of the government and, in particular, Olmert’s ascendance to power are further manifestations of the totalitarian impulse within Kadima. Kadima constitutes a minority faction of the party within which it was elected. Moreover, after Sharon’s permanent incapacitation, a new Prime Minister should have been chosen via procedures that were never enacted. Olmert’s takeover was close to a coup d’etat by Olmert and Attorney General Meni Mazuz, who declared Sharon “temporarily incapacitated for an extended period”. One would imagine that a caretaker government that took charge under such extraordinary circumstances would govern with restraint and a touch of humility. Instead, Olmert et al acted as if they inherited the country from their Papa (which they did). Olmert concocted the Amona fiasco as a show of strength. Then Shaul Mofaz and Gideon Ezra (neither of whom is nearly intelligent enough to think this up on their own) thumbed their noses at a duly appointed Knesset committee investigating the matter. One wonders what model of democratic governance informs such behavior.

There is a single unifying rationale for all of Kadima's maneuvers during this campaign. They wish to create the impression of an unstoppable juggernaut that will solve the nation's problems with cruel efficiency. Their first announced policy was electoral reform. But rather than to seek means for increasing accountability, they wish to institute a presidential system that would diminish accountability. Olmert then announced that the election was in the bag. Both these maneuvers were carefully planned to create the illusion of unstoppable momentum, an illusion that seeks to take advantage of a popular weakness for totalitarianism.

Finally, the latest Kadima bon ton is defining Israel's borders. This is a perfectly reasonable idea except that it consists of a major part and a minor part. The major part is consolidating Israel's hold on the land it wishes to keep. This is the important part but it is difficult and requires genuine grit and the determination to resist pressure from the mighty, qualities Olmert and company manifestly lack. This part of the retrenchment idea is never mentioned and will never be carried out. The minor part is determining the dispensation of lands outside the proposed border. The only aspect of this part that Kadima will discuss is the dispossession of the Jews there. The image of a strong and determined majority destroying the lives of a weak minority takes advantage of the momentum created by Sharon in the disengagement from Gaza and further projects the wickedly attractive image of decisive forward movement. It is just the sort of pointless muscle flexing of which Olmert is perfectly capable.

Those with a weakness for totalitarianism should be aware that they might soon find themselves under the wheels of the runaway train they are now helping to accelerate.



Blogger westbankmama said...

Very well said - and scary as all get out! I think we are in for a very bad few years, and after that hopefully things will get better. But then again, I thought the same thing when Oslo was voted in and things have just gotten steadily worse...

2:56 PM  
Blogger Ben Bayit said...

It seems that there is a strand of Jews that indeed HAS a weakness for totalitarianism. In Italy there were many Jews (mostly traditional and Orthodox) that supported "strong central government" and came out for Mussolini. Il Duce was even dignified with a visit by such mainstream Zionists as Sokolov who represent Weizmann. In 1933, prior to any situation of government pressure on the Jews, many Austritt Rabbanim in Germany penned a letter to Hitler expressing support for the National Socialist regime. These ideas were seconded by the Seridei Eish who basically said the same things in a newspaper interview, and only opposed signing the letter b/c he was against the Austritt Orthodox communities. I'm nearly certain that in Argentina as well there were Jews that were Peronists and supported the fascist governments.

Thus it should come as no surprise that Jews in israel would support such a regime as Kadima - and that even Rabbanim and settlers who will be thrown out of their own homes will support this party. This is an illness that is much deeper than a few wacky Orthodox Jews in Boro Park who support Pat Buchanan on "social values" issues. It's a severe mental crises in the Jewish electorate.

5:14 PM  

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