Olmert Peretz AP 298.
(photo credit: AP [file])
At a time when the leaders of Kadima and Labor are publicly questioning the coalition's longevity, representatives of the two parties met behind closed doors in the Knesset on Tuesday to consider an agreement on long-term parliamentary cooperation, Kadima and Labor officials told The Jerusalem Post.
The initiators of the proposal said they were acting with the direct knowledge of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. The Labor leader opposes the idea and sees it as a threat to his leadership, but the prime minister has decided not to prevent the talks from going on in the name of Kadima.
The idea was first suggested by veteran Kibbutz Movement chairman Ze'ev Shor, commonly known as "Velvale," who is one of the most powerful men in Labor. Shor met with Kadima and Labor MKs in the Knesset on Tuesday to seek support for the alliance.
"High-ranking ministers and MKs in both parties have endorsed the initiative but they haven't gotten the guts yet to tell their party leaders," Shor said. "I don't see dramatic differences between the parties on diplomatic, security or socioeconomic matters. We all want peace and security.
"If we don't do this, Labor and Kadima will be in bad shape and Bibi [Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu] and [Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor] Lieberman will be running the country," he said.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres has not publicly endorsed the initiative but he has said repeatedly that he sees no difference between Kadima and Labor. The most public supporter of the idea in Kadima is MK Shai Hermesh, who was a Labor member for decades and now heads Kadima's kibbutz and moshav division.
Hermesh said Kadima would benefit from such an arrangement by getting a bloc of 48 MKs that would be guaranteed to provide the stability necessary to allow the government to reach agreements with its neighbors and to draw Israel's permanent borders. Kadima already has a similar deal with the seven MKs of the Gil Pensioners Party.
"The entire concept of Kadima was to build a large enough parliamentary block to bring enough stability to allow a government to last a full term, decide long-term policy, and implement it," Hermesh said. "Kadima was supposed to be a ruling party with more than 40 seats. But it didn't succeed in the election and has had to rely on a coalition that is unstable because of Labor MKs who act irresponsibly. This wouldn't happen if we had an agreement with long-term obligations based on what we have in common." Kadima won 29 Knesset seats in the last election.
Kadima and Labor MKs said the main stumbling bloc facing the initiative was Peretz, who faces a leadership challenge in May. They said other potential Labor leaders would be more likely to support the idea.
But one Labor MK said the prospect of Peretz leading Labor to the 10 seats, from the party's current 19, as predicted by polls, was the main reason to back the proposal. But if a new leader took over Labor who had a chance of getting elected prime minister, there would be no need for such an arrangement.
"Labor first has to see who its leader will be and then decide whether to support it," the MK said. "We also don't know what is happening with Kadima anymore. Many of their people are getting investigated, and maybe we won't want to be associated with them."
An Olmert associate said that from what he had heard of the proposal, it did not sound realistic. A Kadima official said the initiative was "not serious and not on the party's agenda."