Analysis: Unspoken grievances of a humiliated man

By David Horovitz September 19, 2008

In ridding itself of a liability, Olmert, Kadima has lost a key asset, Mofaz

(With Gil Hoffman)

His Kadima Knesset loyalists arrayed on either side of him, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz insisted at his Thursday afternoon press conference that he harbored no grievances about the party leadership vote in which he had so narrowly lost out to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

He had no complaints about the election process, the regulators, his party colleagues, the media, the pollsters or the analysts. They had all done their work as they saw fit.

But that apparent noble equanimity, of course, contrasted utterly with the bombshell this soft-spoken former chief of General Staff and defense minister was dropping. He had congratulated Livni on her victory and would remain a Kadima member, he said quietly, but was taking an open-ended time-out from politics, and would be looking for fresh areas of employment that might benefit from his talents.

Implicit in the disconnect was the pain of a man who feels disgusted and betrayed. And while Mofaz preferred to suffer it in silence, those close to him were busy Thursday night detailing the litany of blows, biases and humiliations to which he feels he has been subjected.

The Kadima establishment, they lamented on his behalf, had set him up to fail. Livni was the golden girl, to be crowned come what may. After decades of military and public service, he had been misrepresented throughout the campaign as a murky political operator and Likud hawk, and his popularity relentlessly undermined by skewed and baseless polls.

On primary day itself, when he still had a good chance of victory, the Mofaz camp further complained Thursday night, he was quashed by a combination of disqualified ballots, extended voting hours and the reprehensible broadcast of exit polls falsely showing an overwhelming Livni victory – an appalling breach of democratic norms that could only have persuaded those Mofaz supporters still waiting to cast their ballots that they were wasting their time and should head home.

Although Mofaz is himself no political innocent, these claims of mistreatment hold water. The Kadima vote itself plainly demonstrated that a goodly proportion of that tiny electorate had grown to respect Mofaz as a worthy leader. In an election prompted precisely by the need to find an unsullied chief for a battered party of government, Kadima voters evidently regarded both Livni and Mofaz as politicians of integrity and propriety.

His bitter departure is thus Livni’s second colossal setback, following the disappearance of her predicted wide margin of victory. It is a tremendous blow to Kadima, which has now, after Ariel Sharon, lost its second security heavyweight, and lost a prominent Sephardi figure, too – rendering this would-be centrist and widely representative grouping more vulnerable than ever to a depiction as elitist, dovish and Ashkenazi.

But Mofaz’s disappearance from politics is a wider blow, too. He headed Israel’s strategic dialogue with the United States on grappling with Iran’s relentless nuclear drive, an area where a vacuum is simply intolerable. And whatever Mofaz’s contribution to the failures of the Second Lebanon War, that conflict only underlined the ongoing need for security expertise at the cabinet table.

Here and in democracies abroad, defeated candidates routinely vacate senior positions – if only to regroup and plot their return. Mofaz may have precisely such a course of action in mind.

But that he is going now may not actually serve the public good. And it certainly does not help Kadima and its narrowly, problematically crowned new leader.

In ridding itself of Ehud Olmert, that prime ministerial liability, Kadima has now ejected one of its principal assets as well.

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