Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz gained more control over his faction on Thursday when his loyalist, Dr. Akram Hasson, entered the Knesset in place of Gideon Ezra, who died of lung cancer after smoking heavily for 55 years.

Ezra was a top ally of Tzipi Livni, who could have joined a potential rebellion against Mofaz had he remained in the Knesset.

Hasson ran Mofaz's campaign in the Druse sector in both of his Kadima leadership races against Livni.

In a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post, Hasson praised Mofaz and his decision last week to bring Kadima into Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition.

“The Arab parties have made a mistake all these years by staying in the opposition and not joining the coalition where they could better serve their constituency,” Hasson said. “Only Kadima can really help the Druse sector.”

The Knesset now has a record six Druse representatives, with Hasson joining Majallie Whbee (Kadima), Ayoub Kara (Likud), Hamed Amar (Yisrael Beytenu), Shakib Shanan (Independence) and Said Nafa (Balad).

There are also a record 16 non-Jews in the parliament, who besides the six Druse are Beduin MK Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta’al), Christian Hanna Sweid (Hadash) and Arabs Ahmed Tibi, Ibrahim Sarsur and Masud Gnaim of the UALTa’al, Muhammad Barakei, and Afo Agbaria of Hadash, Jamal Zahalka and Haneen Zoabi of Balad, and Labor’s Ghaleb Majadle.

Hasson, born in 1956, served for five years as mayor of Carmel City, a short-lived merger of his native Daliat al-Carmel and Usfiya, and is president of the Carmel College. He has also been a high school principal and directed the local community center.

Calling Ezra “a close friend,” Hasson said that even though he had a lot to contribute to the Knesset, he respected the late legislator's decision to remain in the parliament and to keep on taking a salary even though he barely came to work in recent months and missed key votes.

Ezra was noticeably absent from Monday’s vote for the state comptroller in which Yosef Shapira embarrassingly fell three and then two votes shy of avoiding another round of voting before getting approved. Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer left the hospital to vote, which brought attention to Kadima's shorthanded faction.

“I respected Gideon and I could not have asked him to leave,” Hasson said.

The next candidate on the Kadima list is Ahmed Dabbah of the northern Arab village of Deir el-Asad, who made news when he brought more than 1,000 Kadima members from the village to vote for Mofaz in the March 27 primary, more than the votes Mofaz and Livni combined received in Tel Aviv.

MK Ronit Tirosh, who is close to Mofaz, said that when Kadima receives additional portfolios in Netanyahu’s government in August, one of the new ministers should quit the Knesset so Dabbah can enter. He would be Kadima’s first Arab MK, and the current Knesset’s 17th non-Jew.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger