Livni thwarts attempt at early Kadima primary

No discussion about date for primary expected until at least May after failed challenge by rivals Mofaz, Dichter and Sheetrit.

Tzippi Livni 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Tzippi Livni 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni scored a big political victory on Monday when she withstood a rebellion in the Kadima faction and succeeded in passing a proposal to delay discussions about holding a new leadership race until at least May.
MKs Shaul Mofaz, Avi Dichter, and Meir Sheetrit, who intend to run against Livni, demanded a faction meeting about advancing the primary, currently set for three months before the next general election, which could take place as late as October 2013. Livni surprised her rivals by calling their bluff and enabling the debate to take place.
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In the debate, MKs took turns criticizing Dichter for repeatedly accusing Livni of corruption in public speeches and interviews.
They said his attacks were harming the party.
Livni’s spokesman said that when Mofaz asked for a vote on holding the primary in February, she called his bluff again and said she was willing to hold the vote if he was.
When he held back, she raised a proposal to defer discussions on primaries until the end of the Knesset’s winter session in March in order to focus on toppling Netanyahu.
Livni’s opponents did not participate in the vote, and her proposal passed without opposition, creating tentative quiet in the party that is now set to last for at least the next five months until the Knesset returns from its spring recess in May. The long process of changing Kadima’s constitution to enable advancing the primary won’t begin until then, making it very unlikely that a primary would be held before the fall 2012 holidays end next October.
“Kadima has embarked on a period of tranquility in which there will be no worries of primaries,” said Kadima MK Shlomo Molla, a strong backer of Livni.
Mofaz called Livni’s maneuver “political thievery” and Dichter said the vote was unfair, because only a quarter of the faction’s 28 MKs were present for the vote.
They vowed to continue efforts to unseat Livni, despite the vote.
“It was wrong to use the Knesset session as an excuse to delay the race,” Dichter said. “Kadima should fight in the parliament as if there was no internal race and hold the internal race as if there was no fight in the parliament.”
Mofaz and Dichter faced criticism from Livni opponents in the party for not taking a stronger stand against her.
“When they go in to the faction room, they leave their balls outside,” one Livni critic said of the two.
Yulia Shamalov Berkovich, who became the first Kadima MK to call for Livni to give up the party chairmanship six months ago, said Mofaz and Dichter hadn’t yet internalized that Livni cannot be defeated via standard procedures in party institutions.
“They are being too nice,” she said.
“They want polite faction meetings as if it’s a democracy, but you can’t act that way in a party led by a dictator.”
Shamalov Berkovich said Livni’s behavior was “forcing us to overthrow her in a hostile takeover” and predicted that Livni would regret not taking action now to reach a consensus in the faction on a date for the primary. She expressed disgust with a Livni interview published over the weekend in which Livni said she could not wait for life after primaries and that she was only temporarily in politics in order to make peace.
“What kind of leader says she hates the Knesset and can’t wait to leave?” Shamalov Berkovich asked. “I have respect for this place as an emissary. I’m not here to play a bit part in her making peace and leaving, even if there was someone to make peace with. What about socioeconomic issues? She has no connection with the Kadima faction that is made up of socioeconomic people. If you are suffering so much, why don’t you just leave and go make money and leave behind those of us who love the people of Israel and want to help them.”