Kadima divided over whether it will split

Former minister Tzahi Hanegbi trying to persuade seven MKs to leave Kadima, join Likud.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
July 22, 2012 20:56
2 minute read.
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz quits coalition

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz quits coalition 370 DONT USE. (photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)

 
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MKs in Kadima were so divided on Sunday that they could not even agree on whether the party will stay united or whether a group of the seven MKs necessary to split the party will come together this week.

As he has in the past, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is actively trying to bring about a split in Kadima and has met multiple MKs over the past two days. Such a split could help Netanyahu widen his coalition again, pass the 2013 state budget, and avoid early elections.

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Past attempts to split Kadima were unsuccessful because they lacked leadership. But this time, Netanyahu is relying on former minister Tzahi Hanegbi, who is angry at Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz for removing the party from the coalition and who has been trying to persuade seven Kadima MKs to leave together with him to Likud.

While Hanegbi has reportedly been promised a cabinet position in Netanyahu's government, his perjury conviction two years ago could prevent him from receiving the post. Knesset House Committee chairman was told to get ready to approve a split as early as Monday.

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz released a statement accusing Netanyahu of "stooping to the lowest form of political bribery."

As of Sunday evening, the only MKs who had confirmed that they wanted to leave Kadima for Likud were Otniel Schneller, Ya'acov Edri, Arieh Bibi, and Yulia Shamolov-Berkovich. But Schneller said he was sure he could find at least three more MKs to leave with them.

"We will surprise you,” Schneller said. “We are in a process of talking. I don't want to say names yet, because it's sensitive and real.”



When asked specifically about former Kadima leadership candidate Avi Dichter, Schneller said that “when the train comes, he will have to decide whether to get on or get left behind.” Schneller said the latest the move could take place would be next week.

“I think whoever doesn't leave this week or next will be stuck in the used up cigarette butt that Kadima has become,” Schneller said. “ Kadima in the next term won't be in its current form. It has finished its path with the help of [former Kadima heads] Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert, who are working from outside to make sure the party doesn't survive. Mofaz will pay the price for his mistake of entering the coalition only as a show in order to leave for no reason and slam the door behind him.”

Edri called the Likud his “political home” and his current Kadima party a mess. He said he knew that he would return to the Likud eventually but he was not sure when.

One possibility that is unlikely is that seven MKs from Kadima's Right and Left flanks will break off from the party together and then split again. The MKs on the Left, who are loyal to Livni, said she would want them to take such a step.

"We wouldn't join with the MKs on the Right in a split because we don't want to strengthen Netanyahu,” MK Shlomo Molla said. “No one with integrity could do something like that. The Right will have to find seven MKs on its own.”

Another Kadima MK said he was willing to leave Kadima in the past but he now thinks Netanyahu is vulnerable and could be defeated if the party stays together.

"If they had seven, I am sure they would have left by now," the MK said.

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