Kadima four unlikely to be forced out of faction

Knesset House Committee to hold tribunal on Mofaz request to expel Schneller, Shamalov-Berkovich, Bibi and Duan to prevent funding, ability to join Likud or become ministers.

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)
The Knesset House Committee is unlikely to authorize Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz’s attempt to fire four of his party’s 28 MKs, Likud and Kadima sources said on Monday.
In a letter to House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud), Mofaz said that MKs Otniel Schneller, Yulia Shamalov Berkovich, Arieh Bibi and Avraham Duan had left Kadima, based on quotes attributed to them in the press.
In his letter, Mofaz cited Article 61 of the 1994 Knesset Law, which says the committee must investigate whether a lawmaker has actually left his faction before authorizing such a change.
The House Committee will hold a tribunal in which Kadima will present its claim that the legislators had already quit the party.
Each MK can individually argue otherwise. Though the MKs may bring a lawyer to Tuesday’s meeting, none planned to do so as of Monday evening. Should Kadima or individual MKs disagree with the verdict, they can appeal to the Jerusalem District Court.
If the committee authorizes Mofaz’s request regarding the four MKs, the legislators would no longer be members of any faction and as such would be unable to propose bills or motions for the agenda. They would be unable to join any other faction or run on that faction’s list in the next election unless they first resigned from the Knesset.
It would also be impossible to appoint them as ministers or deputy ministers, as the Likud had promised some MKs.
If the House Committee turns Mofaz down, as is expected, the lawmakers may join another faction, although they are unlikely to be accepted if they cannot find three more Kadima lawmakers to join them so they can take party funding with them.
A source in Mofaz’s camp was skeptical that the House Committee would force the foursome out of Kadima, saying the party would “dry them out” instead. This means they would find themselves remaining in Kadima in a situation similar to that of renegade Shas MK Haim Amsalem, who is essentially ignored by the other members of his faction, who do not allow him to propose legislation or motions to the Knesset agenda.
“Mofaz’s letter to the House Committee is not serious and has no chance of being authorized,” Government Services Minister Michael Eitan (Likud) said.
“MKs are not marionettes who can be thrown away and punished just because of internal disagreements.”
Committee chairman Levin also said Mofaz’s letter was unlikely to be authorized as it “barely presents a hint of a [valid] claim.”
From a legal standpoint, he said, quotes in the press about signed agreements to jump from Kadima to the Likud would not hold water unless the contracts were presented.
“This is a serious, weighty decision because if an MK is forced to leave his faction he will have no funding and cannot join an existing party in future elections,” Levin explained. “Real proof is necessary to justify such a step.”
Levin added that the tribunal would be fair and he would hear both sides’ claims.
“This political marketplace, in which someone jumps from one party to another without considering ideology, must be condemned,” Levin added.
“However, that is not enough under the law. It is not enough that what they did does not look good.”
The Likud MK pointed out that it was legal for groups of seven or more MKs to leave a party, although if the four failed in their attempt it was not reason for punishment.
Levin also said that disagreements between a party leader and members of his faction were not a good enough reason for the committee to allow the party leader to clean house. He called for all MKs on the House Committee to vote according to legal considerations and said there could not be party or coalition discipline in Tuesday’s meeting.