Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Kadima Party Leaders Struggle For Power



The Kadima Party has never stood for anything but the attainment of political power. Today, with its government in tatters and its Prime Minister's popularity flirting in polls with zero percent, Kadima's leaders, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, are locked in a power struggle for the leadership of the party and the post of Prime Minister.

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon founded the party when it became obvious that the rank and file of the Likud Party rejected his program of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Sharon repeatedly presented his program for approval at Party conventions, and was repeatedly rebuffed. Already Prime Minister by virtue of a Likud election victory, based on a political platform that was diametrically opposed to the unitlateral withdrawals that he now advocated, Sharon resigned from the Likud Party but held on to the office of Prime Minister and the reigns of government. In a parliamentary democracy, this amounted to an internal coup d'etat. However, since the Israeli Left, which always pushes for territorial concessions to the Palestinians, controls the Labor Party and the Israeli Supreme Court system, and with a handful of other disaffected Likud Knesset members following him into Kadima, Sharon had no fear of either a parliamentary or a judicial challenge to his extra-constitutional putsch, so long has he adhered to his plan of giving up Gaza.

Sharon was followed into Kadima by politicians from Likud and Labor, like Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who were frustrated by their inability to obtain leadership positions in their own parties. Kadima has only participated in one election, in March 2006, just months after Sharon suffered a disabling stroke. The Israeli public, shaken by the loss of Sharon, backed his replacement as Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, and gave Kadima 29 seats in the Knesset. Kadima formed a governing coalition with Labor, with Olmert fatefully giving Labor Party leader Amir Peretz, a man with no military background, the post of Defense Minister. Once again, political ambition and the lust for power triumphed over all other considerations.

Perhaps not surprisingly from a government that stands for nothing but the perpetuation of its own power, governing disaster followed upon disaster, culminating with the fiasco of the Summer 2006 Lebanon War. This week, the Winograd Commission, formed to study what went wrong, issued a report that put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Peretz and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. Halutz had already resigned by this time. Peretz, who was a cinch to lose his position as Labor Party leader, and therefore his right to a Cabinet seat, was therefore already on the way out, and has indicated that he will resign as well.

That just left Olmert, who, adhering to his Party's formative principal--holding onto power at all costs--has refused to resign. His once-loyal facotum, Tzipi Livni, whom he had rewarded for her faithfulness with the post of Foreign Minister, is now also demonstrating that her highest loyalty is to the Kadima Party ideal of grasping for political power. As reported today in the Jerusalem Post, Ms. Livni announced that her own resignation would not advance any of the recommendations of the Winograd Report; however, she has recommended to Olmert that he resign. That, of course, would leave the path open for her to be interim Prime Minister. In reaction, an Olmert associate suggested to the press that Olmert would soon fire Livni.

And so as the Kadima Party ship of state continues to sink, its officers struggle for control of the submerging bridge.

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