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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Tension in Kadima over when the party's next leadership race should be held will lead to a split in the party, senior Likud officials predicted on Saturday night.
Kadima nearly came apart last month after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his close ally, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, succeeded in drafting six of the seven MKs needed to legally split the party.
Katz has maintained contact with multiple Kadima MKs about joining the six and enabling the split. He said over the weekend that the dispute over the date for the Kadima leadership race could be an excuse for another MK to cross the Rubicon.
"We opened the crack in Kadima and little by little, they are coming apart," Katz told a confidant.
"Their fight over the primary makes it increasingly likely to happen and justifies my approach from the get-go."
Sources close to Katz expressed hope that Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's arch rival, MK Shaul Mofaz, would decide to return to Likud due to Livni's reluctance to initiate a rematch for the party leadership.
They said they were still hoping for a big name in Kadima to lead the split and they would not settle for a minor party MK.
Mofaz pushed for a June 2010 primary in Thursday's meeting of the Kadima House Committee, while Livni's ally, Kadima council chairman Haim Ramon, said he would not agree to advance the race beyond a year before the next general election, which is currently set for November 2013.
The committee's chairman, MK Tzahi Hanegbi, stopped the meeting while MKs were expressing their opinions because he found out that a transcript of the session was being published online as they spoke.
Although Kadima initially released a statement saying the debate would resume on a later date, Hanegbi decided over the weekend that there was no need to continue.
It is now up to Mofaz to decide whether to bring his proposal to advance the primary to a vote in the Kadima faction. His associates said he would make a decision in the upcoming days.
Livni is expected to do everything possible to delay a decision on whether the primary will be advanced, knowing that her allies control the NIS 1.7 million in party funding that Kadima receives from the state every month and that she can use to strengthen her hold over the party.
Sources close to Livni refuted a story published over the weekend in the Israel Hayom
newspaper that she was courting former IDF chief of General Staff Dan Halutz to join Kadima. The newspaper reported that Halutz had met recently with Livni, who could use a top security figure if Mofaz leaves Kadima.