When the Kadima party, which Livni leads, unanimously voted down an offer by Netanyahu to join the governing coalition, the offer itself was exposed as an empty and cynical political scheme, and the leverage and support many thought Netanyahu had, turned out to be fake.
After trying to present himself as a cordial and noble leader with the interests of the country at heart, Netanyahu showed himself to be merely a conniving politician endlessly vying for more power. He tried to put out an inflated image of himself. and when that image turned out to be exaggerated, he was left looking like a mere pretender.
Netanyahu, with the help of Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, attempted to persuade seven or more of Kadima’s parliamentarians to agree to defect should Kadima fail to join his coalition. He then tried to force the major opposition party into supporting his government by using the threat of such a split against them. Had he been able to get seven, Livni would have been left helplessly cornered into choosing between joining his coalition at any cost in order to hold the party together, or seeing her own parliamentary support rapidly deteriorate.
Instead of simply providing her an opportunity to join the government with dignity, the offer that Netanyahu made would have been so meager and embarrassing to her and her party that even those Kadima MKs who had signed their own agreements to join with him and leave their party were so disgusted by the proposal that even they voted against it. When even those who were ready to do on their own what their party was considering vote against the agreement, you know that the offer was not made in good faith.
Vice premier position reasonable
Netanyahu spoiled his own plan by getting to greedy. It was not enough for him to simply force Livni into joining his coalition. He wanted to beat his chest, to embarrass and destroy her so that everybody would know that he was king and she was weak.
Though Livni has weathered a storm, and Netanyahu has suffered a public defeat, she has not solved the fundamental problems that led to the episode and she has not emerged unwounded. She remains the leader of a highly divided party with a significant number of MKs who oppose her policies, six of whom were, and probably still are, ready to leave if they are able to get a seventh to go with them. One of those six, MK Eli Aflalo, has already begun the process of independently leaving the party.
Having such a highly contentious rift so publicly exposed hurts Livni regardless of whether or not she was able to hold the party together this time.
If Kadima is going to be able to go forward much longer, the divide that Livni continues to face within the party must be unified, and a renewed sense of pride in the organization must be instilled. The position that the party agreed on was a decision to remain in the opposition until they are able to join the coalition with dignity.
This time Livni called Netanyahu’s bluff, but if she wants to restore her own image she has to be able to present herself as being serious. Kadima should present a counteroffer. Something that will be humble enough to be taken seriously, yet substantial enough to befit the Knesset’s largest faction. It has to be something more than just a power-fight for the top.
The offer must show that Kadima can accept a number two position gracefully. It has to be a proposal that will allow the country and Livni’s own party to think that she is at least trying in good faith to work with Netanyahu, and one that will allow the many would be Kadima supporters who want the party to work with the current government to be able to fall in behind her worthy efforts to do so.
A vice premier position for Livni seems reasonable, and a position on the security cabinet would offer some dignity to Shaul Mofaz, her number two. No offers of a rotating premiership though. Livni tried that once, it didn’t work. It is not going to work now.