The 28-member Kadima Knesset faction remained undivided against all odds on
Monday night despite efforts by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the Right
and former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni on the Left to split the centrist
Former justice minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who left Kadima for the
Likud on Monday, will continue working on Netanyahu’s behalf to draft the seven
MKs required by law to split Kadima.
Meanwhile, another former justice
minister, Haim Ramon, will intensify his efforts on Livni’s behalf to persuade
seven Kadima MKs to leave and form a new centrist party she will
Both sides will push to complete the split by the time the Knesset
embarks on its three month summer recess on Wednesday night. Reports that
Netanyahu was considering initiating elections in October if the coalition did
not expand were seen as political spin intended to pressure Kadima lawmakers to
When rumors of early elections spread and started gaining
traction, Netanyahu’s associates leaked closed conversations between the prime
minister and Likud ministers in which he denied that elections would be
“This is not the time for elections,” Netanyahu was quoted as
saying. “They are not on the horizon. “There is no reason to go to elections
when the coalition is functioning well on diplomatic and economic issues, as it
has over the past three years.”
Expanding the coalition could help
Netanyahu distance elections. To that end, he authorized Hanegbi and coalition
chairman Ze’ev Elkin to negotiate with Kadima MKs. A Likud source revealed that
Netanyahu’s mediators had negotiated with more than half the Kadima
It appeared overnight between Sunday and Monday that Hanegbi and
Elkin had succeeded in drafting seven legislators, but after they inked four MKs
– Otniel Schneller, Avi Duan, Arieh Bibi and Yulia Shamolov Berkovich – Ya’acov
Edri and Nino Abesadze retreated and Nachman Shai denied the Likud’s claims that
he had been No. 7.
Duan, Bibi and Shamolov Berkovich were promised deputy
ministries in their fields of expertise, but other MKs would not bite. The Likud
negotiators blamed the failure to draft seven legislators on their inability to
promise reserved slots on the Likud candidates list in the next election, and to
Ramon persuading MKs to leave for his as-yet unformed party rather than the
In a Knesset speech in which he returned to his former role of
opposition leader, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz accused the prime minister of “pimping” Kadima MKs. He said Netanyahu “never
missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” using a phrase former foreign
minister Abba Eban coined for Israel’s Arab neighbors.
negotiated with Netanyahu and was ready to be part of the shameful move must do
some soul-searching with themselves, their family, children and the public who
sent them to the Knesset,” Mofaz said at a press conference.
wants to go join the corrupt and the draftdodgers should go. Whoever wants to
accept a political bribe of a junior post in a bloated government and sell out
your values should go.
We don’t keep anyone by force, and Kadima will not
drop to its knees for anyone.
We don’t want such people in our
Mofaz sent a letter to the Knesset House Committee asking for the
four MKs to be kicked out of Kadima, but the committee is expected to deny the
request on Tuesday.
Labor chairman Shelly Yechimovich revealed at her
faction’s weekly meeting on Monday that she had reached out to Kadima MKs and
would welcome them in her party. She denied reports that she had wittingly or
unwittingly assisted Hanegbi’s efforts to split Kadima.
“I will be happy
to see in Labor those few good Kadima MKs who share our outlook and realize
Kadima has finished its path,” Yechimovich said. “Our door is open to them, but
without promises and political jobs, and certainly not in a deal that would
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On accused Netanyahu
of being capable of implementing any dirty move that would preserve his
“Leftists who voted for Tzipi Livni against Netanyahu woke up and
found out that their vote will roll to Netanyahu, because in the centrist
parties, instead of principles, there are only cabinet seats,” she
Likud MK Danny Danon said lawmakers who leave Kadima would receive
a cold shoulder in his party.
“The Likud is not a political garbage can,”
he said. “We won’t allow slots to be reserved for opportunists who left a