Likud MKs and activists were skeptical on Thursday evening that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu truly planned to establish a government with Kadima, but were concerned that a Kadima split could pull the Likud leftward.
One Likud official said he doubted that Netanyahu's move was anything but tactical - to force a split within Kadima, but not out of a desire to form a government with its members. A number of party officials and MKs said they did not think a national unity government was likely in the near future, but that a more relevant concern was maintaining the ideological integrity of both the party list and the coalition.
"There is a certain amount of trepidation regarding anchored places within the Likud," said MK Danny Danon. "The general mood within the Likud is that splitting Kadima is good, but that taking them into the Likud is not such a good idea. There are ministers who know that this will be at their expense the next time the government is formed, and even more clearly, [there are] concerns among people who have 'anchored' positions within the party lists, who are afraid that Netanyahu has promised their positions to potential newcomers."
Danon added that he was not concerned that either a national unity government or a potential influx of Kadima MKs to Likud faction ranks would threaten Knesset positions held by Likud backbenchers. Instead, he said, he felt a certain measure of concern that the move to bring in the left-leaning MKs was an attempt to counterbalance many Likud freshmen's right-wing leanings.
"In general, I think that there is a desire not to be dependent on the party's right wing after the 10 months of the moratorium come to an end," he said.
Likud MK Yariv Levin agreed that a national unity government was unlikely to be formed, noting that a number of those likely to leave Kadima - including MKs Shai Hermesh, Yulia Shamalov Berkovich and even Eli Aflalo - had already stated that they would not be eager to join the Likud. Regarding others who could join the party, Levin assessed that "it would be difficult for others who don't have a history in the Likud - [MK Tzahi] Hanegbi, for instance, has history - to elbow their way in and be advanced in the primaries.
"I don't feel threatened by this," Levin added, "and even if one or two former Kadima MKs found themselves on the list, I don't think it is an issue. I think what is important is to come to the Knesset, do good work; it speaks for itself."
Levin said he felt that "splitting Kadima is in essence a correct move. It has, however, advantages and disadvantages. Advantages are that it increases the coalition base, weakens Kadima, which is important, and decreases dependency on Labor within the coalition. But the disadvantage is the question of where the prime minister will take things. If he uses the end of dependency on Labor to reduce the influence of Labor on the coalition, then that is good, but if he uses it as a way to spread out a safety net to justify left-wing moves by the government, then it is obviously problematic."
A veteran activist in the Likud central committee said that he, too, was concerned that the party could be pulled leftward, but said that he did not think even Netanyahu could work around the central committee to ensure guaranteed spots for former Kadima MKs.
"I hope for the good of the movement, and that this is not used to pull the party into directions that are not part of our political ideology, and doesn't place cheap politics over our beliefs," he said.
But not all in the Likud were as pessimistic regarding the possibilities of a split or a national unity government.
"The best option at hand is that Kadima joins the government in its entirety," said MK Carmel Shama. "The option to split Kadima is an internal issue, but obviously it is good whenever steps can be taken to broaden the coalition's base."
Shama, viewed a party moderate on security issues, added that "nobody knows how it will personally influence them, but the priority is the national good, followed by the party good, and finally the personal concern, which is impossible to assess at this moment."