If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, what is it? What is it? That’s right; it’s a lame duck political party.

This is the sorry state of Kadima now: On paper, it is the largest political party in the Knesset, but in reality has lost much of its electoral support to a resurgent Labor Party and newcomer Yair Lapid. It is also on the verge of a cataclysmic split which threatens to send the party from its current 28 mandates to single digits, somewhere just above the electoral threshold.

If its leader for the past three years, Tzippi Livni, loses to her perennial challenger Shaul Mofaz, she is likely to bolt the party bequeathed to her by former PM Ehud Olmert [who quit the party over corruption allegations]. Even though she hasn’t officially said so, Livni’s central message to party members and her supporters is that “there is no Kadima without Livni.”

This is quite a megalomaniac statement by Livni, but is also a shrewd political strategy on her part. With this scorched-earth strategy, Livni has told Kadima’s members that if they don’t vote for her continued leadership, Kadima will disappear. It’s either her or nothing; a message Mofaz has been hard at work countering.
So if she loses to Mofaz, she won’t see Kadima as her home anymore, and will either leave the party for private life, or take some of her supporters and start a new party. Some pundits have posited a Livni-Lapid unity, but Lapid has all but ruled that out by promising he will not staff any current members of Knesset in his new political party [such is the man's disdain for the current crop of politicos].

The scenario of Livni starting her own party [the 'real Kadima'] is quite unlikely, as Mofaz has reached out to all of Livni’s supporters, telling them that if he wins, he’ll take them into the next government, either with him as Prime Minister [yeah right] or as a senior coalition partner. Livni’s supporters have had quite enough of being out in the barren opposition benches, and most of them can be expected to grab the life buoy thrown out by Mofaz. How much this will help them stay in the Knesset after the next general elections is anyone’s guess, seeing as Kadima has taken a massive hit in the polls.

According to the latest polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud gains strength to 35 Knesset seats [up from its current 27], which allows the PM to cherry pick from amongst the smaller parties across the political spectrum. Since there is virtually no difference between Mofaz and Netanyahu on any substantive issue, the latter should have no problems taking whatever is left of Kadima, with Mofaz at its helm, into his coalition now, or after the next elections.

To Kadima’s left lies a resurgent Labor, with popular Shelly Yechimovich leading a socioeconomic agenda. Occupying the same electoral space as Kadima, Yair Lapid growing political movement [it is not an official party yet] has taken the mantle of ‘clean politics’ away from Livni, the latter being tarnished by months of reports of financial wrongdoing and alleged fraud by her party’s apparatchiks. Both Yechimovich and Lapid have capitalized on the past summer’s socioeconomic protest movement, something which Livni failed to do, to her eternal shame and detriment.

So has Kadima turned the corner? Perhaps, but waiting for it around the corner are two serious rivals that Kadima will have a hard time competing with for new voters. On the other hand, a Mofaz-led Kadima with eight to ten Knesset seats could be a comfortable coalition partner for the Likud.

Either way, Kadima has ceased to be a serious alternative for government, and is no longer a centrist rallying point for the Israeli middle class.