Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made significant progress in three months of quiet efforts to persuade at least seven Kadima MKs to split the party and join the Likud, sources close to Netanyahu said on Sunday night.
The sources confirmed reports that three of the seven MKs would be appointed ministers of Negev and Galilee Development; Pensioners Affairs; and Jerusalem Affairs; three will be deputy ministers, and one would chair a Knesset committee.
Seven MKs are needed to break off from a large faction, according to the so-called Mofaz bill which passed four months ago. Former defense minister Shaul Mofaz, who the bill was unofficially named after, is not included in the seven MKs Netanyahu's associates have tried to attract, but they have not given up hope of persuading him to jump ship.
"We have spoken to more than seven MKs, and it is complicated, but I have no doubt that it will happen soon," a source close to Netanyahu said.
One Kadima official who has been involved in efforts to persuade Kadima lawmakers to leave for the Likud said that Kadima leader Tzipi Livni was "completely in the dark" about how serious the matter was. He said there had been negotiations with as many as 14 of the 28 Kadima MKs and that more than seven could be attracted if there were enough positions for them.
"We are already at the end of the story," the Kadima official said. "The fact that it hasn't come out until now means that Netanyahu's people are doing things right. I guarantee that this move will happen."
Every Kadima legislator contacted by The Jerusalem Post vigorously denied any intentions of defecting to the Likud. They accused Netanyahu's advisers of exaggerating cordial conversations that were never serious.
"People talk to everyone and everyone talks back, and it's been that way for months," MK Ya'acov Edri said. "Of course I enjoyed being the minister of Negev and Galilee development, and I am a man who gets things done, but I am in Kadima, period."
MK Marina Solodkin, who maintains good relations with both Netanyahu and Livni, said she has told Livni that all of Kadima needed to join the coalition and not just part of the faction. She called MKs considering betraying Kadima "selfish pigs" and "backbenchers who think they can be statesman."
Officials who have spoken with Livni said she did not believe any lawmaker would jump ship and if they did, they were not the caliber of MK that Kadima wanted anyway. Her associates said the reports were "so not serious at this stage that it is not worth commenting."
The chairman of the Kadima council, former MK Haim Ramon, told Army Radio that Kadima legislators were "too smart" to leave the party.
"Bibi is the only prime minister who is busy with taking apart the opposition instead of taking care of the problems of the country," Ramon said. "The prime minister's people keep selling political reporters the story, but there is no chance it will happen. This government will come apart a long time before Kadima will."