Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ari Shavit/ Social protest hurting opposition, not Netanyahu

(Ari Shavit-Haaretz).Daphni Leef has destroyed MK Tzipi Livni. That was not the intention; that was not the goal. When a dozen young men and women put up tents on Rothschild Boulevard in mid-July, they did not think at all about the chairwoman of Kadima. When hundreds of thousands of young people marched in the streets on Saturday nightsn in summer, they were not waving signs that said "down with Kadima." But life is amusing. It has its own mean sense of humor.

The social protest boosted MK Shelly Yachimovich. Shelly Yachimovich crushed Tzipi Livni. And the Yachimovich-Livni dynamic made Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even more powerful: It left him without a real rival who can undermine him and present an alternative. Thus, the cigar-smoker, who had everyone furious at him, ended up benefiting from that fury.

Instead of destroying Netanyahu, Daphni Leef built him up. Instead of bringing down industrial giants Nochi Dankner, Yitzhak Tshuva and Shari Arison, she brought down Tzipi Livni. The ironic political outcome of the summer revolution is a mortal blow to the head of the opposition and the transformation of the prime minister into a strong national leader.

Livni helped Leef destroy Livni. Over the past hundred days she made three major mistakes. The first was to do nothing while the Rothschild revolution was underway; she was detached from it. She recalled that the person who brought her into politics was Avigdor Lieberman, who had instructed her to privatize as much as she could as head of the Government Companies Authority. She remembered that she had indeed privatized and privatized and privatized. And so, when the public rose up against the ethos of privatization, she remained chilly. As an honest person, Livni stayed faithful to the religion of privatization and concentrated capitalism of Kadima. But in so doing, she proved that she does not listen to the voice of the people and the spirit of the times. She said nothing worthwhile in the face of the most important social action that has ever happened here. With her own two hands, Livni made herself irrelevant.

Her second mistake was to call on Netanyahu to attack Hamas in August 2011 after the bloody terror attack near Eilat. If her call had been heeded, Israel would have embarked on Operation Cast Lead 2. Soldiers would have killed and been killed in Gaza while missiles fell on Holon. The fragile alliance with Egypt would have been broken and the complex relations with Turkey would have become even more entangled. This time the peace camp understood the seriousness of the issue. It did not accept the positions of the person it had preferred over Meretz in the elections of 2009. It had had enough. Even leftists do not like to come out looking like chumps. And so, very quietly, the left lifted the mantle of protection that it knows how to lay on the shoulders of its darlings. Kadima's leader is still being coddled, but it is not like it used to be. The teflon is scratched. The great white hope is no longer white and not as great as it was.

The third mistake was Gilad Shalit. Livni's position on Shalit was reasoned and courageous. If she had stood up and publicly spoken her mind, many would have appreciated and respected her for it. But Livni remained silent before the swap and attacked it afterward. She lost out twice. On the one hand she is perceived as heartless and on the other hand as weak-hearted. There is no more affection, no more esteem, no more sympathy. The polls are in a nose-dive. Tzipora is destroyed.

Israel is the land of the comebacks and Livni might very well stage one. But in Kadima they are not waiting; they are sharpening their knives. When the party chairwoman no longer enjoys the charms of pollster Mina Tzemach, she also loses the charm she once had among members of her party. That is why the demand has now been heard to move up Kadima's internal election, and the increased chances of Shaul Mofaz to win it.

Everything is still open but the situation is not simple. Livni can still shuffle the deck by joining Netanyahu at a late date and establishing a Zionist centrist government.