Committee allows Kadima four to stay in faction

Knesset C'tee holds tribunal on Mofaz request to expel Schneller, Shamalov-Berkovich, Bibi and Duan; MKs freed to join any party.

Shaul Mofaz at Kadima faction meeting 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Shaul Mofaz at Kadima faction meeting 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Most Kadima MKs attempted to leave the faction, lawmakers revealed in a Knesset House Committee hearing – in which Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz’s request to force out four MKs who attempted to break off from the party and join Likud was rejected.
House Committee members voted to keep MKs Arieh Bibi, Avi Duan, Yulia Shamolov Berkovich and Otniel Schneller in Kadima, with 11 in favor and two opposed, rather than acquiesce to Mofaz’s request to leave them without campaign funding and unable to join another faction or be appointed as ministers or deputy ministers.
During the meeting, Schneller said 14 MKs – half of the Kadima faction – took part in recent negotiations to split the party.
When coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) was asked to reveal which Kadima MKs discussed an exit strategy, he said: “You should ask who didn’t.”
“Netanyahu must reveal the political bribes he offered,” a Kadima spokesman said following the meeting. “The Likud turned the House Committee into a circus in order to protect its mercenaries, which it bought with promises of jobs.”
The spokesman called for the four Kadima MKs to resign from the Knesset as soon as possible.
At the meeting’s opening, Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon said that, according to the 1994 Knesset Law, the four should not be forced to leave Kadima.
“The tension between an MK’s individuality and his role as a messenger of his party are at the basis of parliamentary action in Israel,” Yinon explained.
Yinon pointed out that, on the one hand, factions have to present a unified front to keep order in the Knesset. At the same time, MKs have the basic right to vote according to their conscience and speak freely even if they disagree with their party’s leadership. According to precedent, he said, if an MK would consistently vote against his or her party in no-confidence votes it would be grounds for dismissal.
The Kadima four cannot be seen as having left their faction, but if they continue to act against their party, there may be more evidence against them, leading to their dismissal, Yinon concluded.
Elkin defended the four MKs, mainly by pointing to what he called Mofaz’s hypocrisy and the many occasions on which other Kadima MKs had tried to leave the party.
“I was very interested to see who would show their face here. None of Kadima’s MKs in the House Committee are at this meeting. Why? Yoel Hasson and Shlomo Molla have been negotiating an exit with Haim Ramon for the past month!” he said. “Most of Kadima is not here, because they know I will reveal things about them.”
Even the MK representing Mofaz in the meeting has a history of trying to leave the party, Elkin added, This was confirmed by MK Meir Sheetrit, who spoke at the committee on behalf of his party leader.
Elkin also referred to a letter Mofaz wrote in 2005, saying he would never leave the Likud.
Days later, he joined Kadima.
“How can this person accuse others?” Elkin asked.
The four Kadima MKs defended their actions, focusing mostly on their right to voice opposition to their party leader without facing consequences and pointing out other Kadima MKs’ attempts to jump ship.
“I did not commit any act that would mean I quit Kadima. In a civilized state you cannot punish people for thoughts or intentions,” said Bibi, denying he signed any agreement that would make him a deputy minister.
Duan, formerly the director of Mofaz’s primary campaign, said that he had to convince Mofaz dozens of times to stay in Kadima when Tzipi Livni led the party. He read a newspaper headline from 2010, in which Mofaz threatened to leave Kadima, saying “why wasn’t he called to the House Committee?” “I admit there was an attempt to leave Kadima for ideological reasons, but the law allows for such considerations,” the MK stated. “We have political opinions, and we can change our minds. This is a democracy. What will Mofaz do next week if another seven or eight want to leave?” MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) said: “It sounds like there is a dictator in Kadima who wants to cut off objectors’ heads.”
Duan cited “hurt feelings because of close connections” between him and Mofaz, saying he will not criticize the Kadima leader, except to say that he is disappointed in his lack of values and friendship.
Shamolov Berkovich repeatedly called Mofaz a liar and lamented Kadima’s transformation into a “left-wing extremist party that divides the nation.”
MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) said Livni made Kadima so left-wing that she was “punished by God” and ended her political career “in shame.”
“Have MKs become marionettes? Are we unable to criticize the leader of our party?” Shamolov Berkovich said, adding that the party’s current political positions “hurt my heart.”
Schneller gave a half-hour speech, saying he was a staunch supporter of the Kadima- Likud unity coalition, and had high hopes for Mofaz’s success in managing to have a replacement for the “Tal Law” passed.
“The gaps between Kadima and the government are much smaller than the gaps between United Torah Judaism and Shas and the government, or Yisrael Beytenu and the government.
For that Kadima had to leave the coalition?” he asked. “It is legitimate to leave for political reasons, but we could at least reach an agreement on this bill that is so important to Israeli society.”
According to Schneller, Mofaz was disrespectful of MKs whose opinions differed from his own, and Kadima has become “an extreme left-wing party that hates haredim.”
“Mofaz is afraid because he and I worked on breaking off from Kadima for months,” Schneller said. “He told me after the previous party primary that we should build an alternative after Livni stole the party from him, and I helped convince him to stay.”
House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) concluded the meeting by calling for Mofaz to show more respect for the Knesset and its members, saying the Kadima leader’s request was “insubstantial, not properly explained and pathetic.”
“There was no real attempt to prove the claims in the letter, and then [Sheetrit] did not even stay to hear the defendants’ claims,” Levin stated. “This is an embarrassment.”