It was announced by Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz yesterday that he was pulling out of the coaliton after Prime Minister Netanyahu caved in to the ultra-Orthodox parties and rejected the findings of the Plesner Commission on military service. When Mofaz agreed to go into the coalition just over two months ago it was for the purpose of finding a solution to draft dodging by the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) section and to implement electoral reform. The two issues are related. It is Israel's present proportional representation list system with its low (2%) entry barrier that allows the ultra-Orthodox to blackmail those mainstream secular parties competing to form the government into giving their voters special status. When Kadima entered the coalition the Knesset was debating a bill for new elections.
It is now likely that Netanyahu will schedule elections, either now or later, for late 2012 or early 2013 so that the elections can be held after the American elections and before debate begins on the 2013 budget. At that time polls were forecasting that Kadima would receive between twelve and fourteen seats--about half of what it had in the present Knesset with 28 seats. Commentators are already saying that this is the end of Mofaz's political career, which should make the generals in the Likud like Boogie Ya'alon feel better.
Until now supporters of the two-state solution have placed their hopes (and prayers) on Kadima as the main centrist alternative to the Likud. Kadima did lead a coalition its first time out from 2006 to 2009 under Ehud Olmert and failed to reach a peace agreement with Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. The next election will probably bring both good news and bad news for those of us supporting the two-state solution. The good news will be that Labor has probably hit rock bottom and will start on its ascent upwards. The bad news is that this will be at the expense of disappointed former Kadima voters who may then turn or return to Labor, thus the size of the Center-Left bloc will not grow and may even continue to shrink if some of those disappointed voters go to new parties like that of Yair Lapid. But don't expect a Center-Left bloc large enough to form a coalition and negotiate peace with the Arabs during Obama's second term (if he has one).