Mofaz: Unity gov't a 'historic opportunity'

Kadima leader rejects criticism he "flip-flopped" by joining coalition of former rival Netanyahu.

Shaul Mofaz 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Shaul Mofaz 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz on Thursday defended his decision to join the coalition of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu calling the possibility to form a national unity government "a historic opportunity to make meaningful steps for the good of the public."
Mofaz, who has been heavily criticized as a "flip-flopper" for joining Netanyahu's coalition after having attacked the prime minister as "a liar" in his role as opposition leader, stated that "their are times when the leadership must make decisions even if they seem unpopular."
The newly-inducted vice premier added: "In my view, it would have been irresponsible to miss this opportunity. The responsibility is on me, and me alone. Let me be judged by my results - I will stand the test."
Kadima council chairman Haim Ramon marred the celebrations in the party over Mofaz’s joining the cabinet Wednesday, when he sent Mofaz a fiercely worded letter announcing that he was quitting his post and leaving the party altogether.
Ramon was one of the founders of Kadima in 2005, leaving Labor along with current President Shimon Peres and MK Dalia Itzik. The three of them moderated the image of Kadima, which at the time was seen as a second Likud. He w a r n e d Wednesday that the party had returned to being part of the Likud again.
“I cannot remain in the party after it betrayed the vision it was built upon,” Ramon said.
“There is no more Kadima ideologically. It was founded as a centrist party. Joining this coalition does not mesh with our values.”
Ramon’s departure added fuel to a mini-rebellion developing in Kadima. At the grassroots level, dozens of members have sent letters saying that they are quitting the party to protest the coalition deal with  Netanyahu.
Among the party’s 28 MKs, only Robert Tibayev voted against joining the coalition in their faction meeting. In the Knesset plenum, Tibayev and MK Shlomo Molla absented themselves from the vote. MK Nino Abesadze, who has been very critical of the deal, voted for it.
According to a law approved two years ago, seven MKs would be enough to break off from the party. There are lawmakers who supported former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni who would want to break off if they could, but they still do not have the required seven.
“I don’t like that we had to go from criticizing Netanyahu to being part of his coalition in 20 minutes,” Tibayev said. “I am worried that the party has lost its conscience.”
A battle is expected in the party next week over the three Knesset committees Kadima will chair according to the coalition agreement.
MK Avi Dichter is expected to be named chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and MK Meir Sheetrit will likely head the Economics Committee.
The third committee Kadima will receive remains unknown, though there have been rumors about the Law Committee and the Education Committee. A source close to Independence Party chairman Ehud Barak said he had checked with Netanyahu, and he was sure that the Education Committee would still go to Independence faction head Einat Wilf and not a member of Kadima.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.