kadima 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The turmoil inside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party intensified on Tuesday when Likud MK Yisrael Katz revealed that no less than 12 of Kadima's 29 MKs signed a petition of 61 MKs he drafted opposing any future withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
Many of the MKs who signed the petition have been talked about as possible future defectors from Kadima, including faction chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee head Tzahi Hanegbi, Knesset House Committee chair Ruhama Avraham and MKs Marina Solodkin, Eli Aflalo, Michael Nudelman, David Tal, Ronit Tirosh and Zeev Elkin.
To break off into a separate faction, 10 of Kadima's 29 MKs would be needed. Katz said the fact that 12 signed a petition that others declined to sign because they did not want to be considered "rebellious" was a sign that the party's breakup was soon to come.
"When a party is weak, its MKs feel more free to give their opinions without waiting for what the government has to say," Katz said. "It's clear that if Kadima was strong, its MKs wouldn't hurry to tie the government's hands. [Their signatures] say a lot about Kadima, a party without a leadership or a direction."
The Kadima MKs who signed also included former Laborite Shai Hermesh and two former hawks who are now considered among the most loyal MKs to Olmert, Yoel Hasson and Otniel Schneller. Katz said that not every Kadima MK who signed the petition did so as an act of protest, but that such defections on key issues also took place at the end of former prime minister Ehud Barak's government.
"Almost everyone from Kadima who signed has a Likud orientation," Katz said. "If one third of Kadima leaves, we will consider the situation in the Likud."
Katz, who chairs the Likud's governing secretariat, is expected to recommend reserving slots on the Likud list for former Likudniks who return from Kadima. The Kadima MK considered the most valuable to the Likud would be Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who would add a former IDF chief of General Staff to a Likud list otherwise lacking former generals.
A Kadima MK who used to be in the Likud expressed hope that Olmert would be forced to resign after the preliminary findings of the Winograd Commission investigating the war in Lebanon are released next month.
Ma'ariv reported on Tuesday that Kadima ministers were conspiring to bring down Olmert and that a group of 13 to 17 Kadima MKs were coordinating strategy for how to topple Olmert without forcing elections. The report said that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was not part of the potential rebellion but that her relations with Olmert had deteriorated.
Some in Kadima said Livni was criticizing Olmert when she said at the Herzliya Conference at the Daniel Hotel on Monday that "the police are interrogating in the most sensitive of places." She said that "if we discover corruption - it is better to investigate and deal with problems than to ignore them and turn a blind eye to problems - for this investigation strengthens and invigorates the public servants in the system who still perform their duties loyally."
But other MKs said Livni was speaking against corruption not because of Olmert but because she is serving as acting justice minister.
Knesset Law Committee chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson wrote a loyalty letter to Olmert that he said he would circulate among Kadima MKs to prove that the faction was in fact loyal to the prime minister.
Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim, an Olmert loyalist, downplayed the rebellion, telling Israel Radio that "if there's something corrupt, it's the clerks like [Finance Ministry accountant-general Yaron] Zeliha and the state comptroller, public servants who are supposed to be objective but who have targeted the political level."