(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Shinui chairman Yosef Lapid cancelled Monday's press conference in which he was expected to announce his departure from political life, while his second-in-command Avraham Poraz continued to debate his own political options.
Lapid was deterred from declaring his retirement in part by Shinui MKs who sided with Poraz when the latter lost the No. 2 seat on the upcoming list at party elections on Thursday. Throughout Monday the MKs urged Lapid to reconsider, and he agreed to postpone his decision. There was also speculation that the hesitation to resign stemmed from the fate of the millions of elections shekels in the Shinui coffers.
Altogether, 11 Shinui MKs met in the party's Tel Aviv office - Lapid, the 10 not on the new list and Erella Golan, who is fifth on Shinui's upcoming slate. According to MK Etti Livni, they decided that they would make a joint move, which might include starting a breakaway party or joining another party.
They dismissed the idea of rejoining Shinui as part of a recalibrated party list. The Shinui "rebels" insist that without their names and experience, the new list is doomed.
The party's fans and critics seem to agree.
"For Shinui, it's a catastrophe," said Shinui co-founder and former MK Amnon Rubinstein, now provost of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. "It gave power to a minority which doesn't appeal to the general public."
He said it was doubtful the new Shinui leadership would pass the threshold to get into Knesset, which would be a new low for a party that has always managed to have at least two or three representatives - not to mention 15 in the last legislature - over its three-decade history.
Rubinstein noted, however, that current polls indicate that even under Lapid and Poraz the party would face a battle to retain Knesset seats. He attributed that decline largely to the creation of the centrist Kadima, Shinui's decision to quit the governing coalition midterm and that "they didn't show enough results."
He pointed to some achievements in cutting child welfare allowances, breaking up the religious affairs ministry and having a "more liberal" citizenship policy at the Interior Ministry, but added that these changes were "nothing dramatic, nothing that you can come to the voters with."
Shinui detractor and former Meretz head Yossi Sarid put it more harshly. "They achieved nothing," he charged. "The people who supported them feel themselves misled and betrayed."
He called Shinui a party of "one leader, one flag, one issue, one leg - and you can't go for long on one leg."
The recent Shinui elections and the consternation they've caused constitute "the final chord" for the party, according to Sarid. "It didn't meet real Israeli needs, so nobody should [feel] regret about this disappointment."
But Rubinstein maintained that the need for Shinui - for a party "committed to the defense of the rights of the non-Orthodox" - would continue, as Shas could likely sit in the next government.
Whether Lapid and Poraz try to lead it or not, Rubinstein predicted that "a new Shinui will come into being in the future."