The fight to face off against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the next race for the premiership began in earnest Monday, when Kadima leader Tzipi Livni clashed with her No. 2, MK Shaul Mofaz, at the start of the party's weekly faction meeting.
Livni decided ahead of the meeting to turn down a request from Mofaz to discuss his new diplomatic plan, because the normally two-hour session had to be cut to only half an hour due to a speech she delivered at the Saban Forum. Her aides said they left messages for Mofaz's staff to inform him, but they did not return calls. Mofaz's secretary said there were no messages or missed calls from Livni's office.
"Shaul wanted a diplomatic discussion, but the time now is too short and we need a lot of time for a diplomatic discussion because there are many different opinions among us," Livni told the MKs at the start of the meeting.
Mofaz, who sat near Livni, interrupted her and told her: "Your attempt to prevent me from raising [the plan] in the faction meeting did not advance unity in Kadima. But I won't make an issue of it, and at the first opportunity that there will be, I will present my program, which is an important plan for the State of Israel. It should be heard in depth in the way I want to present it."
Livni repeatedly attempted to interrupt Mofaz by sarcastically saying, "wonderful."
Later, when she spoke about diplomatic issues, she made a point of insulting Mofaz, who last week called for negotiations with Hamas under certain conditions.
"We held negotiations with moderates," Livni said regarding the government in which she was foreign minister. "In my eyes any talking to Hamas is dangerous for Israel."
Livni's associates said that Mofaz's behavior in the faction meeting proved that his diplomatic plan was only intended to be a political tool against Livni.
"He insisted on a half-hour discussion instead of answering the phone and setting up an organized forum that would have shown respect for him and his plan," a Livni associate said. "He put on a political show. It's so political, it's transparent. Tzipi will not accept dictates."
Lawmakers loyal to Mofaz expressed frustration afterward that he was not allowed to present the program. MK Otniel Schneller called it "shameful and appalling." Schneller clashed in the meeting with Livni loyalist MK Ronnie Bar-On, who criticized him for calling the 2007 Kadima leadership race corrupt.
"If that's how you feel about the party, you don't have to stay here," Bar-On told Schneller. "The door is there."