Kadima may split as MKs take positions in gov't

Hanegbi in bid to get 7 MKs to leave Kadima, join Likud; MKs Avi Duan, Arieh Bibi to be deputy ministers.

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz quits coalition 370 DONT USE (photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz quits coalition 370 DONT USE
(photo credit: LAHAV HARKOV)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appeared to have obtained the seven Kadima MKs needed to bring about a split in the party, in late-night meetings on Sunday.
He has been trying for three years to split Kadima, and his efforts have borne fruit in meetings with its lawmakers over the past two days.
Such a split could help Netanyahu widen his coalition again, pass the 2013 state budget, and avoid early elections.
Knesset House Committee chairman Yariv Levin was told to get ready to approve a split in Kadima as early as Monday.
Past attempts to split Kadima were unsuccessful because they lacked leadership.
But this time, Netanyahu is relying on former minister Tzachi 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 the Likud.
While Hanegbi, who is not currently in the Knesset, has reportedly been promised a cabinet position in Netanyahu’s government, his perjury conviction two years ago could prevent him from receiving the post.
Mofaz accused Netanyahu of “stooping to the lowest kind of political bribery.”
As of press time Sunday, the MKs who had confirmed that they wanted to leave Kadima for the Likud were Otniel Schneller, Ya’acov Edri, Arieh Bibi, Avi Duan and Yulia Shamolov Berkovich. Under the deal in the making, Bibi, who is a former chief of the Jerusalem police, will be deputy public security minister, while Duan, who is a veteran social worker, will be deputy welfare and social services minister.
Schneller said he was sure he could find at least two more MKs to leave with them.
“We will surprise you,” he 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 not 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 lawmaker 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.