Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz took the wind out of the sails of his critics in Kadima
on Monday when he appointed MK Ronnie Bar-On, who was his predecessor Tzipi
Livni’s top backer, as chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense
Mofaz’s opponents in the faction had hoped to draft Bar-On to
head their rebellion.
They saw him as their candidate for opposition
leader if they would split with nine MKs and surpass Labor as the largest
Bar-On will replace Mofaz, who gave up the committee
to become opposition leader and now vice premier. Bar-On had to give up his post
as chairman of the State Control Committee, because the committee must be led by
an opposition MK.
There had been speculation that Mofaz would give the
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairmanship to MK Avi Dichter, who is a
former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief and has been active in the
committee. But Dichter turned down the post in hopes of being appointed a
minister when Kadima is expected to receive portfolios in the
Kadima will also be given the chairmanship of the Economic
Affairs Committee later this month. The main candidates for the post include MKs
Meir Sheetrit and Ruhama Avraham-Balila, but both may decide in the end to hold
out for a portfolio.
One option for Mofaz is to insist that whoever
becomes a minister quits the Knesset in order to allow new MKs on the Kadima
list to enter. The next two Kadima candidates on the list are both strong Mofaz
supporters, Druse activist Akram Hasoon and the strongman in Kadima’s Arab
sector, Ahmed Dabbah of Deir el-Asad.
While it looked like Kadima would
also receive the Immigration Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee as part
of the coalition deal, it became apparent Monday that the party will instead
elect to keep the Science and Technology Committee, which is headed by MK Ronit
Tirosh, a longtime Mofaz supporter.
In another step to prevent a
rebellion in Kadima, the Knesset will vote as early as Wednesday on a bill that
would increase the number of Kadima MKs needed to break off from the faction
from seven to 10. Several MKs criticized Mofaz for advancing the bill in
Monday’s Kadima faction meeting.
“We look like we are not a serious party
when we propose bills like these,” MK Yoel Hasson said. “We look like we can’t
stop making political deals.”
Yisrael Beytenu decided Monday to oppose
the bill, making it increasingly unlikely that the legislation will
“Our party will not participate in this attempt to make a mockery
of the Knesset,” a Yisrael Beytenu spokesman said.