Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kadima: Last Hope for the Two-State Solution?

Kadima has announced that it will hold primary elections for leader on March 27--about eight weeks from now--in anticipation of an Israeli general election in late 2012 or early 2013. Kadima is the centrist party that supporters of the two-state solution have pinned their hopes on since it was founded in November 2005. Since the June 1992 election that brought Rabin to power, Labor and Meretz have both lost three-fourths of their Knesset representation. But the creation of Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset by one seat, leaves the hope that there is a party that can replace Labor and serve as an anchor for a center-left peace coalition as an alternative to the Right.

Kadima has been a disappointment to many. It has avoided the curse of Israeli centrist parties, which tend to be a collection of defectors from other parties who join together without any coherent ideology and then collapse as pressures mount and personal rivalries flare up. The first of these, Rafi, was founded by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, as a personal vehicle to pursue a grudge match with the Mapai Old Guard. After three years Rafi, which only won ten seats (out of 120 in the Knesset), minus Ben-Gurion joined with Mapai and Ahdut Ha'Avoda to form the Israel Labor Party. Rafi remained for a while as a faction within Labor led first by Moshe Dayan and then by Shimon Peres. But the three original party factions soon became personal camps of Dayan/Peres versus Yigal Allon/Yitzhak Rabin. 

Next came the Democratic Movement for Change led by Israel's leading archaeologist (and second chief of staff) Yigael Yadin in 1976. It lasted for three years before it split into rival parties. It was composed of a collection of former generals and industrialists from the Labor Party and a protest movement, Shinui, that merged to contest the 1977 election and change the electoral system. It won 15 seats but was unable to prevent Menahem Begin from forming a government without them. When Yadin joined the coalition government a few months later Shinui leader Amnon Rubinstein was upset. By 1979 they had split apart and Yadin retired from politics a broken man in 1981.

The last centrist party before Kadima was entitled The Center Party. It consisted of a number of defectors from the Likud and the former chief of staff Amnon Lipkin Shahak. It was formed in 1998 for the 1999 election. After polling around 15 seats initially it won only seven in the actual election. Within three years it was gone. Its Likud defectors returned to the Likud.

Kadima was founded as a personal vehicle for Ariel Sharon who suffered a major stroke less than two months after it was founded. This left the party in the hands of his deputy Ehud Olmert. Olmert formed a government with the Labor Party in 2006 but within months his public support disappeared due to Israel's poor performance in the Second Lebanon War against Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. In late 2008 the party held a leadership election to replace Olmert who was about to be indicted on corruption charges stemming from his time in the Likud. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni barely beat former chief of staff Shaul Mofaz. 

If Mofaz wins, he is likely to lead Kadima into a coalition with the Likud for a center-right coalition. If he loses in a close election, he could take his supporters into the Likud, or remain as a thorn in the side of Livni. Only if Livni wins decisively will there be a mandate for Kadima to remain as an opposition party.  If she wins in a close election and Mofaz doesn't return to the Likud, she may be under pressure to join the Likud in a coalition in order to avoid Mofaz defecting.

If Livni is successful, only the Palestinian end of the two-state solution is blocked. If she is unsuccessful, both ends will be blocked--the situation before Rabin was elected in 1992. 

Here is a link to a discussion on the future of the two-state solution on the website Bitter Lemons. It doesn't really discuss the internal politics of either Israel or Palestine but merely the policy positions of the two countries.

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