Ramon quits Kadima in protest of unity deal

Mofaz loyalists blast Ramon as “father of political tricks” and a "convicted sex offender."

Haim Ramon 390 (photo credit: Gil Cohen Magen / Reuters)
Haim Ramon 390
(photo credit: Gil Cohen Magen / Reuters)
Kadima council chairman Haim Ramon marred the celebrations in the party over its chairman Shaul 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.”
Kadima MK Yoel Hasson released a statement lamenting Ramon’s departure and insisting that the party remained loyal to its original vision. But loyalists of Mofaz in the party accused Ramon of seeking revenge against the party chairman, who fired him from his post two weeks ago.
“It is unfathomable that a convicted sex offender, who is the father of dirty political maneuvering in Israel, allows himself to criticize and talk about betrayal,” a Mofaz loyalist said.
The loyalist was referring to Ramon’s January 2007 conviction for committing an indecent act by forcibly kissing a 20-year-old soldier without her consent. The political maneuvers Ramon initiated included Kadima’s split from the Likud and Peres’s failed attempt (known as “The Stinking Maneuver”) to topple the national unity government he formed with Yitzhak Shamir in 1990.
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 Prime Minister Binyamin 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.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Netanyahu Wednesday evening to congratulate him on the creation of the national unity government.