Who can recall the olden days when Kadima was young and proudly proclaimed its identity as the one Israeli political party that stands for nothing? Two days before the 2006 elections, Kadima's Meir Sheetrit grandly announced that his party was the only party in Israel that "has disengaged from ideology."
But look at Kadima now. As far as its leader Tzipi Livni is concerned, ideology is all that matters. Never mind that her ideology - of surrendering land to the Palestinians - was completely discredited by Hamas's electoral victory and subsequent seizure of power in Gaza. Never mind that Kadima's assertion that establishing a Palestinian state is the key to solving all of Israel's problems has been overtaken by Iran's rise as a regional hegemon and aspiring nuclear power dedicated to the eradication of Israel.
As Livni put it Sunday as she rejected Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu's request that Kadima join his government as a full partner, "If we compromise and concede our ideology by joining a government with a path that is not ours, it would violate the trust of our voters."
To try to coddle Kadima into setting aside its newfound ideological fervor, Netanyahu harkened back to its past as party that in Sheetrit's words was "unburdened by ideological baggage" and "looking only to the future." Netanyahu argued that since today there is no chance of establishing a Palestinian state that will live at peace with Israel, Kadima can set aside its differences with Likud and cooperate on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, overthrowing Hamas's regime in Gaza and protecting Israel's economy from the global economic meltdown. But Livni would have none of it.
SINCE LIVNI has been a post-Zionist radical ever since she underwent her ideological conversion from Right to Left in 2004, her position is understandable. Less understandable is her opportunistic party members' willingness to back her up. What accounts for their readiness to leave their cushy ministries for the Knesset's back benches?
Since the election, Kadima's leaders, their fellow leftists in Labor and Meretz and the media have all proclaimed that Netanyahu's rightist coalition is unsustainable. Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik even suggested that Kadima shouldn't discard its campaign literature since new elections will be declared within a year.
On their face these assertions make little sense. A rightist coalition will be comprised of 65 members of Knesset who have nowhere else to go. What possible reason would they have to agree to new elections?
But Livni and her colleagues have three formidable assets giving credence to their claim: The Obama administration, President Shimon Peres, and the IDF General Staff under Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. If these forces act in concert to oppose Netanyahu, his ability to govern and remain in office will indeed be significantly diminished.
Over the past week, the Obama administration has taken a series of steps that show that it plans to push the traditional US policy of pressuring Israel to make unreciprocated concessions to its Arab neighbors to an entirely new level. Whereas the Bush administration rejected the legitimacy of the Iranian-supported Hamas terror group, the Obama administration gave three signs this week that it is willing to recognize a Hamas-led Palestinian regime. First, its surrogate, Senator John Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited Hamas-controlled Gaza and so effectively accepted Hamas protection. While there, he accepted a letter from Hamas to President Barack Obama and duly delivered it to the US consulate in Jerusalem.
Second, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she will participate in next month's Egyptian-sponsored conference which aims to raise money to rebuild Hamas-controlled Gaza in the aftermath of its unprovoked missile war against Israel. This is the first time that the US has willingly participated in raising money for Gaza since Hamas seized power in June 2007.
Finally, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has decided to participate in negotiations aimed at reestablishing the Hamas-Fatah unity government. Abbas claims that the US now supports such a government that would again render Fatah Hamas's junior partner. US recognition of such a government would constitute US recognition of Hamas as a legitimate actor.
Then there was Kerry's visit to Syria. Not only did Kerry indirectly praise Syria for its support for Hamas by extolling its willingness to support a Palestinian government in which Hamas plays a leading role, he called for the abandonment of the Bush administration's decision to withdraw the US ambassador from Damascus after the Syrians oversaw the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005.
OBAMA'S WILLINGNESS to treat with Hamas and Syria is part and parcel of his apparent belief that the principal reason that the Arab and Islamic worlds are hostile towards the US is because the US supports Israel. The notion that Obama blames Israel for the Arab and Islamic hatred of the US gained credence this week when it was reported that Obama intends to appoint former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman to serve as the director of the highly influential National Intelligence Council.
Freeman is known for his virulent animus towards Israel. In numerous public statements he has placed all the blame for Arab and Islamic hostility towards the US on Israel and argued that the US's conflicts with the Arabs will disappear the minute the US abandons Israel.
In one such statement in 2007, Freeman, who extols Hamas as "democratically elected," said, "Those in the region and beyond it who detest Israeli behavior, which is to say almost everyone, now naturally extend their loathing to Americans. This has had the effect of universalizing anti-Americanism, legitimizing radical Islamism, and gaining Iran a foothold among Sunni as well as Shiite Arabs."
By refusing to submit to its Arab enemies, Freeman argues that Israel has earned their wrathful retaliation, which Freeman claims, also places Americans in danger. In his words, "Such retaliation - whatever form it takes - will have the support or at least the sympathy of most people in the region and many outside it. This makes the long-term escalation of terrorism against the United States a certainty, not a matter of conjecture."
President Shimon Peres for his part doesn't share Washington's enthusiasm for Syria or its animus towards Israel. But he does believe that Israel can and must do more to establish a Palestinian state. As the uncontested leader of the Israeli Left, on Friday Peres came out in favor of the so-called "Saudi peace plan." In an indirect, fawning interview with Ma'ariv's political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi, Peres embraced the Saudi initiative, which calls for an Israeli withdrawal to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines and acceptance of millions of hostile foreign Arabs as part of the so-called "right of return."
Both in the interview and in his remarks in the lead-up and the aftermath of the elections, Peres has established himself as the bulwark against a non-leftist government that hopes to place the issue of Palestinian statehood on the back burner. Like Livni, in spite of the fact that there is no Palestinian leader willing to live at peace with Israel, Peres insists that Israel's most pressing challenge is to establish a Palestinian state.
IN THEIR BID to discredit the Netanyahu government, Peres and Obama will apparently enjoy the support of the IDF General Staff. According to a report in Ma'ariv on Friday, IDF Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi has embraced defeatism as a national strategy. Ma'ariv's diplomatic commentator Ben Caspit reported that Ashkenazi claims that while it is true that Israel has military capacity to set back Iran's nuclear program significantly, there is no point in doing so.
According to Caspit, as far as Ashkenazi is concerned, rather than removing the immediate threat to its survival, Israel should appease Iran's Arab puppet - Assad. Ashkenazi reportedly believes that Israel should leave Iran alone, and beg Obama to convince Assad to accept the Golan Heights from Israel. Once Assad has the Golan, Ashkenazi argues that he will stop pointing his missiles armed with chemical and biological warheads at Israel, stop supporting Hamas and Hizbullah and generally become a member in good standing of the Western alliance. Why Syria would do such a thing, when it would owe an Israeli surrender of the Golan Heights to its alliance with Iran, is a question that Ashkenazi hasn't seen fit to consider.
Ashkenazi is extolled by the leftist media as non-political, but this is untrue. The Chief of General Staff is exceedingly close to former IDF chief of General Staff Amnon Shahak, who signed the post-Zionist Geneva Initiative in 2004 and has established business partnerships with Fatah leaders.
As chief of General Staff during Netanyahu's first term as prime minister, Shahak openly rebelled against the government by refusing to meet with the prime minister or attend cabinet meetings. Shahak announced a failed bid to unseat Netanyahu as prime minister shortly after retiring from military service in 1998.
Ashkenazi, who brought Shahak on as his "professional coach" after replacing Dan Halutz as Chief of General Staff in 2007, clearly shares his political views. He opposed fighting Hamas until missiles began raining down on Ashdod, supports signing a new ceasefire with Hamas today that will give Israeli legitimacy to the terror group, and supported ending Operation Cast Lead without first toppling or even significantly degrading Hamas's ability to control Gaza.
Ashkenazi is also extremely close to former IDF OC Military Intelligence Uri Saguy. Since the mid-1990s, Saguy, who owns large tracts of land in the Galilee, has been one of the greatest champions of an Israeli surrender of the Golan Heights. Like Shahak, Saguy serves in the unofficial role of Ashkenazi's professional mentor.
Caspit claimed that right after Netanyahu forms his government, Ashkenazi intends to tell him that the IDF rejects the notion of attacking Iran. That is, according to Caspit, upon entering office, Netanyahu will find the IDF General Staff standing arm and arm with Obama and Peres in a bid to overthrow him.
No wonder Kadima has now found ideology.
IF NETANYAHU wishes to survive in office and actually accomplish the clear aims he has set for his government, he must begin aggressively selling his agenda to the public. By doing so, he will build the kind of public credibility he will need to prevent Ashkenazi from rebelling against him. With Ashkenazi sidelined, Peres and Obama will have less direct ability to prevent Israel from attacking Iran.
During the campaign, Netanyahu chose to keep a low profile in the hopes of neutralizing the media's criticisms by denying them headlines. At the time, there was some justification for that policy. But now that he is forming the next government, the public must know why he wants to do what he plans to do and why we must support him. Otherwise, Kadima is right. There is no reason to join his government.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.