Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Likud politicians in closed conversations
Monday that he knows the effort to split Kadima failed miserably.
only did he not get the seven MKs required to leave Kadima, in order to split
the party, he also got his hands dirty in political horse trading. The prime
minister was upset that the failed initiative tainted his genuine efforts to
broker a compromise proposal on drafting yeshiva students.
So why did he
do it? The first answer suggested by Netanyahu’s associates is one given by
anyone who gets caught doing anything that looks bad: He thought he could get
away with it.
Netanyahu respected former minister Tzachi Hanegbi’s
political abilities. He thought Hanegbi could deliver at least seven Kadima MKs
and probably more without too much hassle. He knew there would be bad headlines
for a day or two but they would soon be forgotten.
The prime minister
also wanted to widen the coalition again to help him work out a compromise on
equalizing the burden of IDF service and pass the 2013 state budget.
most of all, Netanyahu wanted support for whatever he will ultimately decide
regarding how to handle Iran.
How does adding little-known MKs Avi Duan,
Arieh Bibi, Yulia Shamolov Berkovich and Otniel Schneller connect to Iran? First
of all, expanding the coalition could help him distance the next
Netanyahu is expected to win the next election despite the bad
press he has gotten over the past two months.
But an election would
likely mean the end of the political career of Ehud Barak, Netanyahu’s trusted
defense minister and former commander in the IDF.
Widening the coalition
from 66 to 73 MKs would prevent the 11-MK Shas faction from toppling Netanyahu,
which is especially important now because Shas chairman Eli Yishai has decided
that holding an election as soon as possible would help him politically. It was
no wonder that Yishai was the source of headlines suggesting that Netanyahu was
mulling initiating an expedited race.
Had Hanegbi delivered 10 Kadima
MKs, Netanyahu could also avoid getting toppled by Avigdor Liberman’s 15-MK
Yisrael Beytenu faction.
That was also important to Netanyahu, because at
any point, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein could clear Liberman of corruption
charges and Liberman would have an interest in initiating an
Netanyahu wanted to add Hanegbi to the cabinet because while he
has dovish credentials from his years in Kadima, he is a strong proponent of
taking military action if other methods to stop Iran’s nuclearization
Hanegbi cited Iran as his main reason for defecting from Kadima
back to the Likud in a long manifesto on his Facebook page.
stability of the government is essential to deal with the imminent downfall of Assad in Syria, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the
international wave of terror sponsored by Iran and Hezbollah, and above all:
This is the most fateful time on the Iranian issue,” Hanegbi wrote.
decision on Iran will impact on our lives more than any other decision that
stands before us.”
In Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz’s Knesset press
conference, he attacked the MKs who tried to leave Kadima, as was expected. He
tried to paint Netanyahu as corrupt, as was expected. But Mofaz was not expected
to connect the effort to split Kadima to Iran.
“Kadima will not risk
operational adventures that will endanger our daughters and sons,” Mofaz said in
a statement that appeared out of context with the rest of his speech.
was later quoted as saying in closed conversations that “when the real reasons
for the corrupt dance of Hanegbi and Netanyahu become clear, it will have to be
Mofaz’s associates said he saw a direct connection between
Netanyahu’s obsession with Iran and Hanegbi’s tough talk on the issue when he
was Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman.
So it is
possible that when Netanyahu authorized Hanegbi to negotiate with Kadima MKs,
his real targets were not Duan, Bibi, Shamolov Berkovich and Schneller, but
Natanz, Isfahan, Bushehr and Fordo.