A special Kadima-initiated Knesset session with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday ended up highlighting differences inside Kadima, both on foreign policy and over the role that should be played by the opposition.
In his speech, Netanyahu pleaded with Kadima and the rest of the Knesset to stand behind the government in the face of external challenges from Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah, and of difficulties in the diplomatic process. While he made a point of not mentioning the clash with the United States over building in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, he appeared to hint to the issue in his speech.
"I expect you to behave statesmanlike as we did when we were in the opposition," Netanyahu told the MKs. "You know very well that we wanted negotiations with the Palestinians from day one. You know that from day one the Palestinians presented preconditions that were never presented in the Oslo process, and it could be that there are certain reasons for that."
In another apparent veiled reference to the American pressure on Israel, he said the Palestinians developed unrealistic expectations and that a unified Knesset could help bring them back to the negotiating table faster.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni responded in her speech that when the government made correct decisions, Kadima would support it and when it made wrong ones, it would criticize. She cited the Gilo controversy and the Goldstone Report as examples of when Kadima supported the government.
But Kadima MKs said privately that they believed Livni needed to show more support for the government when Israel was facing off against the world, as Netanyahu had when he defended Israel in the foreign press during Operation Cast Lead when he was opposition leader.
"I was happy that she finally spoke about supporting steps that the government is taking, because we don't have a spare country," Kadima MK Otniel Schneller said. "The gap between Kadima and Likud on the diplomatic issue is small, especially now, so I hope we could cooperate more with the coalition."
Livni's speech also reflected the rifts in Kadima on foreign policy.
When she called for talks with the Palestinians to continue from where they left off in the Kadima government, normally mild-mannered Minister-without-portfolio Bennie Begin responded: "Which negotiations? Yours or [former prime minister Ehud] Olmert's?"
"I am talking about continuing the negotiations from where I left off as head of the negotiating team," Livni responded. "Not something the prime minister offered in a take-it-or-leave-it kind of way."
Livni's associates said this was not the first time she had attacked the deal Olmert offered the Palestinians, which included a Palestinian state in Gaza and land amounting to 100 percent of the West Bank, thousands of Palestinian refugees entering Israel's final borders and Jerusalem under the international stewardship of five countries.
Livni sparred on Monday with her party's no. 2, MK Shaul Mofaz, over his diplomatic plan. When Livni's microphone temporarily didn't work during her speech, Likud ministers shouted that Mofaz was responsible.
Former Kadima leadership candidates Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit also have a plan, as does Schneller.
While one Kadima MK reported feeling dizzy over the many plans in the party, others said it was healthy to have so many opinions.
"There is an essential dispute inside Kadima on the diplomatic issue, over whether we should be paying cash or credit to the Palestinians as part of a deal," Schneller said. "Some in the party don't think we should [have] pluralism in the party, but I think it's a good thing."
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