In one of his most important poems, “The Hollow Men” (1925), T.S. Eliot speculates on how the currently living are perceived by the departed – “those who have crossed with direct eyes, to death’s other kingdom.” He reckoned corporeal mortals are remembered “if at all – not as lost violent souls, but only as the hollow men, the stuffed men.”
If we allow ourselves the interpretive liberty of adding the female gender to Eliot’s generalized plural, and consider it as referring both to hollow men and women, stuffed men and women, then his prescient verses could perfectly apply to Kadima’s present leadership.
Eliot sardonically homes in on the gaping discrepancy “between the conception and the creation.” Between these, he writes “falls the shadow.” Such an obscuring shadow now darkly enshrouds the profligate promises disseminated in all political directions – Left and Right – upon Kadima’s conception. Kadima was hailed as no less than the long-awaited “Big Bang,” detonated to reorder Israel’s political universe and blow asunder its traditional components.
All that remains of the actual creation, just before Kadima’s third anniversary (November 21), is a dim shadow of 2005’s excited hype, resonated ecstatically by media cliques committed to the agenda of combating Zionism’s so-called Right – be it personified by settlers, the Likud, Binyamin Netanyahu, Uzi Landau or anyone else who doesn’t expediently run with the bon-ton pack and doesn’t faithfully follow its postmodernist fashions.
Copywriter of the Big Bang epithet, Labor alumnus Haim Ramon – now relegated to Kadima’s sidelines – is so out-of-the-loop and so indifferent that he didn’t bother to endorse any of the candidates in last week’s party leadership primary. More humiliating yet, no wannabe head honcho so much as bothered to vie for Ramon’s support. Ramon’s marginalization/apathy is emblematic of the state of the party.
Only some 30,000 of its shadily recruited rank-and-file bothered to cast ballots, and this despite inordinate media hoopla orchestrated to drum up enthusiasm and inflict upon Israel – sans elections – a new premier. Peace Now has already embraced and learned to love Tzipi Livni in lieu of Labor flunky Ehud Barak. She, in turn, realizing that the key to her political destiny lies in a surrogate Labor clone, had proven herself exceedingly disposed to ditching principles.
SINCE LIVNI became the establishment’s indisputable darling, its left-leaning loyal court-journalists did their tireless utmost to promote her fortunes and deride her rivals. They glorified her with glowing paeans of praise, boosted her prospects with uber-optimistic forecasts, commissioned and publicized tendentious polls, and declared her the primary winner before the voting concluded.
When even Kadima members appeared reluctant to perform their part in the pre-scripted political pageant, the media rushed to enhance Tzipi’s chances. Channel 1 – public-owned and paid for by you and me – allowed Knesset member Yoel Hasson ample airtime just before the primary’s close to extol Livni and urge eligible primary participants to hurry and vote for her and thereby save the nation.
The media predictably failed to squawk when, breaking the game rules, polling stations were kept open longer to save Tzipi. Additional stations were opened at Tzipi’s request, where these helped her cause. However, similar requests from Shaul Mofaz were denied outright. Still, despite all this, she merely managed to squeeze out a hair-thin 1 percent edge. Given the small numbers at play to begin with, Livni wouldn’t have achieved even this minuscule majority were everything on the up-and-up.
Thus, by dint of 431 individuals, an anyway evaporating party presumes to impose Tzipi on us as head of our government. The rationale is that it’s bad for democracy to summon the entire national electorate to vote. By seeming to stick to a synthetic party’s hitherto-unimplemented strictures, the vox populi can be subordinated to what several hundred hacks consider their opportune option.
So much for the moral authority of Tzipi’s triumph.
This, of course, won’t prevent superficial scribblers and shallow talking-heads from championing the legitimacy of her elevated rank. Their skewed conception of democracy calls for thwarting the popular sentiment if that sentiment isn’t to their liking. Common folks, believe our opinion-molders, don’t know what’s good for them. The omniscient ones must steer the masses to the correct course.
What they did to Mofaz is but a hint of what they’ll unleash on Netanyahu. And they might succeed, because – as the ultimate anti-Bibi weapon in the Left’s arsenal – Tzipi can do no wrong. How reporters gushed at being served French fries outside the beloved candidate’s home! How they relished the delicacy she said she prepared with her own hands! It’s such readiness to kowtow to fawning coverage conventions that prevented the press from delving into Livni’s record.
Though she’s presented as the fresh new force for change – Israel’s counterpart to Barack Obama – she’s really nothing like him. While Obama is truly inexperienced, Livni points to years in high executive office. Tzipi’s pose as the model of self-assured competence and no-nonsense know-how should naturally invite investigation into what she accomplished as minister.
WE WON’T even mention her silent acquiescence to Ariel Sharon’s corruption (after all, he was her patron) and her cowardly response to the corruption of Ehud Olmert, Avraham Hirchson and other Kadima luminaries (after all, she didn’t want to jeopardize her career). We won’t mention her support for the incontrovertible fiasco that was disengagement (after all, Tzipi couldn’t afford to buck the party line).
But were our media even minimally objective and responsible, they would focus on her conduct as foreign minister during the Second Lebanon War and her interrogation in its aftermath by the Winograd Committee. Though under severe fire for grossly mismanaged diplomacy, Livni managed never to give a straight answer to a single Winograd-panel question. The diplomatic debacle she almost caused – plainly due to failure to understand her interlocutors and anticipate their moves – resulted in the disaster of the war’s last three days. Forces were dispatched to senseless battles to improve positions and salvage something of the mess she made.
The end “improvement” was UN Resolution 1701. Livni now crows about it as a particularly splendid feather in her cap, even if that resolution was never worth the paper it was printed on.
However, all’s relative. Although highly harmful, 1701 is a lesser disaster than what Livni had in the works previously. Details can be accessed on-line in the Winograd protocols. They make fascinating reading, and should send chills down Israeli spines should Livni constitute our new standard for leadership.
Tzipi offers the quintessence of what T.S. Eliot ascribed to “hollow men” (and which we extend to include “hollow women”): “Shape without form, shade without color, Paralyzed force, gesture without motion.” If Kadima could field no worthier a prime-ministerial nominee than Tzipi Livni – if her caliber is deemed the fittest to headline Kadima – then the disparity “between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act,” indeed staggers even jaded and cynical political imaginations.
That’s why, instead of witnessing Ramon’s much-ballyhooed shattering of old frameworks, all we see is the way Kadima ends – both in practical and ideological terms – as Labor’s sorry substandard substitute. In Eliot’s words, it “ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”