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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's party rival, MK Shaul Mofaz, angered her over the past week by trying to take advantage of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's efforts to split the party to force her into advancing the next party leadership race. The Jerusalem Post learned Tuesday that now Livni is considering taking revenge against Mofaz - by calling his bluff and accepting his demand.
"There are people close to Tzipi who have advised her to do to him what Bibi did to Silvan," a Livni associate said, referring to Netanyahu's decision in August 2008 to hold a super-fast leadership race that his rival, Silvan Shalom, ultimately decided to boycott. "She never said no to Mofaz's demand. Now she might say yes to catch him off guard."
Mofaz has been meeting with Kadima MKs over the past week to try to persuade them to advance the leadership race to 2010 from its currently scheduled date of three months before the next general election, which might not take place until its set time of November 2013.
Sources close to Mofaz said that eight to 12 Kadima MKs had already endorsed advancing the election, including MKs who supported Livni against Mofaz in the last Kadima leadership race. MK Avi Dichter, who ran against Livni and Mofaz, announced on Sunday that he wanted the race a year before the general election.
One factor that the MKs will consider in deciding when to support holding the race is the pending verdict in the court case against MK Tzahi Hanegbi, who could be a serious contender if he is cleared of charges that he made illegal political appointments when he was environment minister in 2001. A verdict is expected within six months.
Advancing the race could allow Livni to avoid running against Hanegbi, who has strong support among Kadima members and could be a compromise candidate for the many Kadima MKs who do not have good relations with Livni or Mofaz. Hanegbi declined to answer a question on Tuesday about whether he was considering running.
"I don't think primaries should be held soon, but it has nothing to do with me," Hanegbi said. "Primaries are a recipe for disquiet and internal battles. I expect to be cleared of the charges against me, but I won't consider my political future until then."
Asked whether Mofaz would want Hanegbi to run in order to take support away from Livni, an official close to Mofaz suggested that losing to Hanegbi and not Livni might be more palatable, but that was not his plan.
"Mofaz hates her more than he likes himself because he is not the kind of guy who likes himself too much, but in politics, you have to always think about winning," the official said.
In a press conference at the Knesset on Monday, Livni appeared to rule out advancing the primary as long as Netanyahu was threatening to split the party. Netanyahu has said he would continue efforts to split the party despite his failure to do so over the past week.
"As head of Kadima, I will continue to make right decisions, but not under threats from outside or in," Livni said at the press conference.
"Everything has a time and place," she continued. "I told Mofaz it's not the right time. The party bylaws gives a time for such things. If changing the bylaws is raised at the right time, it will be considered, but after what Kadima has gone through, it is not the issue to deal with at this time."