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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Nine Kadima candidates gathered in a dusty field in the Negev desert north of Beersheba under a cloudy sky on Monday and planted pine trees that they hope will take root along with their new party.
Avi Dichter, Haim Ramon, Shai Hermesh, Shmuel Riffman, Ze'ev Elkin, Yochanan Plessner, Ronit Adato-Levy, Yoel Hason and Anastasia Michaeli each grasped saplings and placed them in holes in the ground prepared by the Jewish National Fund. A group of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who live in the Beersheba area joined them.
In a joint effort of Kadima and the JNF, for every new Kadima member who pays the NIS 50 membership fee, the party will pay 10 shekels for a pine tree to be planted. Kadima officials said they hoped the dusty field in the Negev will eventually become a wooded areas that will be known as "the Kadima Forest."
"We will prove that Kadima isn't a passing phase," Ramon said. "It's laying down roots that will last for many, many years."
Ramon said he wished that Kadima's founder, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, could have attended the event.
"I hope Arik gets to see these trees bloom and the party blossom too," Ramon said.
Ramon mocked the Likud for trying to prevent Kadima from planting the trees. He said he wished every party would plant trees in the Negev.
The Supreme Court rejected a petition from the Likud on Sunday asking the court to prevent land from being used to promote a political party. The court forced the Likud to pay NIS 10,000 in court costs to Kadima and the JNF.
Dichter, a former Shin-Bet chief, said it was symbolic that Kadima was planting trees after Hamas's victory in the Palestinian election, because Hamas's charter speaks of trees calling upon Muslims to kill Jews hiding behind them and because Hamas terrorists had been caught near the site.
"Those who think that Hamas will change when they enter the government are wrong," Dichter said. "Israel and the US will still see Hamas as a terrorist organization. We will still fight them until they are in their jail cells or their graves. If people want to use trees for evil, we will cut off their hands."
The Kadima candidates vowed to return to the site in the future and to continue developing the Negev.