Mofaz’s missed opportunity: He’s the real sucker (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By ARI HAROW 07/23/12)
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It took little more than two months for Shaul Mofaz to remind us just
why he and his Kadima Party are unfit to govern.
Having vowed in March that he would never join Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu’s government, Mofaz reneged and did exactly that
in May, “for the welfare and future of the State of Israel.” Having
formed a grand coalition under the banner of the national interest,
Mofaz now leaves the government under the dark shadow of political
Playing to the crowds over universal conscription, Mofaz has rejected
historic societal change in favour of vote-grabbing populism. In
doing so, Mofaz has betrayed the political center that he purports to
The issue at the heart of these latest political machinations is of
unquestioned importance. Equalizing the national burden is a long
overdue necessity. Not only are the current exemptions granted to the
haredi and Arab populations unfair, immoral and ultimately
unsustainable for society at large, but meaningful national service
would also be of huge long-term benefit to both of these communities.
Both Mofaz and Netanyahu correctly highlighted the need to end this
untenable status quo when they joined forces in May. However, their
approaches to solving the issue differ greatly, revealing wholly
conflicting priorities and motivations.
It is worth remembering that in May, Netanyahu could have chosen to
go to the polls, which would most likely have delivered a huge
victory for Likud. Instead, he chose an alliance with Kadima, with
the sole motivation of instituting meaningful change. Netanyahu
understood then, as he appears to now, that a broad, consensual
mandate is the surest and safest path to change if we are to maintain
a semblance of social cohesion.
And so, when it came to replacing the “Tal Law,” Netanyahu sought to
integrate haredim into the IDF and national service programs with
their consent. He proposed a gradual integration, whereby some
yeshiva students would be enlisted at age 18, others at 23. Netanyahu
recognized that a 64 year old system must be changed gradually, not
overnight, if the transition is to be successful. By exhibiting
sensitivity toward haredi values and the community’s unique
lifestyle, he has conveyed a message of partnership to the ultra-
By contrast, Mofaz has doggedly stuck to his insistence on a
farreaching decree, mandating the draft of every yeshiva student at
age 18. He has done so in the name of equality, but such a plan will
only be viewed as a broad attack on the haredi world, accentuating
the divisions in Israeli society, rather than bringing about a sense
of shared purpose.
Mofaz has claimed that Kadima’s departure from government was
necessitated because “there were red lines that I was not ready to
cross.” It is hard to see how Mofaz’s stance can truly be a matter of
principle, when his stubbornness over the details of draft age has
resulted in the wholly unsatisfactory draft system that he himself
opposes, remaining intact.
Rather than grasp an historic opportunity to reform conscription and
with it improve our societal structure, Mofaz has opted to make a
statement. He will no doubt claim to be the “true” standard bearer of
the universal draft, having supposedly sacrificed power for principle.
In reality, though, Mofaz has underscored yet again why he and Kadima
are not credible leaders of our country.
Mofaz’s decision to lead his party out of government is couched in
the language of beliefs and morality, but has far more to do with
Tellingly, Mofaz accused Netanyahu of choosing “the interests of the
minority over the majority.”
It is exactly that majority which Mofaz hopes will be within his
grasp at the next election, so long as he appears to champion their
interests and portray Netanyahu as a haredi apologist.
As for Netanyahu, it is not the interests of a minority or majority
which has fueled his actions over replacing the Tal Law. As a
responsible head of government, he has sought a solution which is in
the best interests of the country as a whole, and which all parties
just might be able to live with. Meanwhile, Mofaz’s failure to place
the greater good above political expediency illustrates exactly why
he should be the last leader of a Kadima Party born out of political
The writer served as bureau chief to Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and is currently president of 4H Global. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 07/23/12)
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