(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Kadima politicians warned Thursday that it would not sell its soul for a seat in the government should President Shimon Peres ask the Likud to form a coalition. "We are not going to be a fig leaf to an extreme right-wing government," Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit told The Jerusalem Post. "We are not afraid to be in the opposition."
He spoke even as a team from his party was busy negotiating coalition deals that would place it at the head of the government. But given that Kadima bested the Likud in Tuesday's elections by just a single mandate, 28 to 27, and that the left-wing parties did not muster as many mandates as the Right, speculation is high that Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu will be given the task of forming a new government.
Kadima politicians were careful to insist that they fully expect party leader Tzipi Livni to be the next prime minister.
"We are the biggest party. There is no reason why we would not lead the government," Sheetrit said. Still, he said, if the tables are turned and Netanyahu heads the next government, Sheetrit wanted it to be clear that his party would lose its principles were it to sit in an extreme right-wing government.
"We left the Likud because we did not believe in it," said Sheetrit. "If a [Netanyahu-lead] government comes up with guidelines that we can not support, we will not join it."
Top on the party's list of demands is the creation of a Palestinian state that would live side by side with Israel in peace, he said.
Fellow Kadima MK Yaakov Edri added that his party was not interested in joining a government that would simply say "no" to the steps necessary for the creation of that state, such as negotiations with the Palestinians and territorial concessions. It would be more dangerous to abandon those principles for which the party was created than it would be to join the opposition to fight a right-wing government which would likely fall within a year-and-a half, Sheetrit said.
However, leading the government clearly remains the top goal and priority at this stage, Edri told the Post.
MK Marina Solodkin said that, at the end of the day, both her Kadima party and Likud would have no choice but to form a rotating national unity government that included Israel Beiteinu and Labor.
MK Shai Hermesh said he did not believe Netanyahu wanted to form an extreme right-wing government. The only person who fears the extreme right more than Kadima is Netanyahu, Hermesh added.
Should Kadima opt to move to the opposition, which Hermesh said he opposed, such a choice would not destroy the party, which has proven to be remarkably resilient in the three years since it was created by Ariel Sharon.
Pundits have always rushed to eulogize Kadima, Hermesh said. But "the party has passed one test after another," he said.
Sharon fell into a coma soon after forming the party, which still managed to win the 2006 elections. It fought two wars and its top leaders were charged with corruption. In spite of all that, Kadima still won more mandates than any other party, Hermesh noted.
He added that he did not fear that Kadima parliamentarians would leave if they suddenly found themselves in the opposition. They are unlikely to get ministerial seats in another party if they do, he said. Nor did he believe that any Kadima parliamentarians would leave to form a new party. Why would they do that, he asked, when Kadima has been so successful?
Should Kadima find itself in the opposition, the best move for any parliamentarian would be to work to bring down a Netanyau-led government, he said.
"Which party could give them a better alternative than Kadima?" he asked.