Right, Left to intensify efforts to carve up Kadima

PM insists elections not on horizon; former ministers Tzachi Hanegbi, Haim Ramon both try to draft 7 MKs to split Kadima.

Shaul Mofaz at Kadima faction meeting 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Shaul Mofaz at Kadima faction meeting 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
The 28-member Kadima Knesset faction remained undivided against all odds on Monday night despite efforts by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the Right and former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni on the Left to split the centrist party.
Former justice minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who left Kadima for the Likud on Monday, will continue working on Netanyahu’s behalf to draft the seven MKs required by law to split Kadima.
Meanwhile, another former justice minister, Haim Ramon, will intensify his efforts on Livni’s behalf to persuade seven Kadima MKs to leave and form a new centrist party she will lead.
Both sides will push to complete the split by the time the Knesset embarks on its three month summer recess on Wednesday night. Reports that Netanyahu was considering initiating elections in October if the coalition did not expand were seen as political spin intended to pressure Kadima lawmakers to leave.
When rumors of early elections spread and started gaining traction, Netanyahu’s associates leaked closed conversations between the prime minister and Likud ministers in which he denied that elections would be initiated.
“This is not the time for elections,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying. “They are not on the horizon. “There is no reason to go to elections when the coalition is functioning well on diplomatic and economic issues, as it has over the past three years.”
Expanding the coalition could help Netanyahu distance elections. To that end, he authorized Hanegbi and coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin to negotiate with Kadima MKs. A Likud source revealed that Netanyahu’s mediators had negotiated with more than half the Kadima faction.
It appeared overnight between Sunday and Monday that Hanegbi and Elkin had succeeded in drafting seven legislators, but after they inked four MKs – Otniel Schneller, Avi Duan, Arieh Bibi and Yulia Shamolov Berkovich – Ya’acov Edri and Nino Abesadze retreated and Nachman Shai denied the Likud’s claims that he had been No. 7.
Duan, Bibi and Shamolov Berkovich were promised deputy ministries in their fields of expertise, but other MKs would not bite. The Likud negotiators blamed the failure to draft seven legislators on their inability to promise reserved slots on the Likud candidates list in the next election, and to Ramon persuading MKs to leave for his as-yet unformed party rather than the Likud.
In a Knesset speech in which he returned to his former role of opposition leader, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz accused the prime minister of “pimping” Kadima MKs. He said Netanyahu “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” using a phrase former foreign minister Abba Eban coined for Israel’s Arab neighbors.
“Anyone who negotiated with Netanyahu and was ready to be part of the shameful move must do some soul-searching with themselves, their family, children and the public who sent them to the Knesset,” Mofaz said at a press conference.
“Whoever wants to go join the corrupt and the draftdodgers should go. Whoever wants to accept a political bribe of a junior post in a bloated government and sell out your values should go.
We don’t keep anyone by force, and Kadima will not drop to its knees for anyone.
We don’t want such people in our party.”
Mofaz sent a letter to the Knesset House Committee asking for the four MKs to be kicked out of Kadima, but the committee is expected to deny the request on Tuesday.
Labor chairman Shelly Yechimovich revealed at her faction’s weekly meeting on Monday that she had reached out to Kadima MKs and would welcome them in her party. She denied reports that she had wittingly or unwittingly assisted Hanegbi’s efforts to split Kadima.
“I will be happy to see in Labor those few good Kadima MKs who share our outlook and realize Kadima has finished its path,” Yechimovich said. “Our door is open to them, but without promises and political jobs, and certainly not in a deal that would strengthen Netanyahu.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On accused Netanyahu of being capable of implementing any dirty move that would preserve his power.
“Leftists who voted for Tzipi Livni against Netanyahu woke up and found out that their vote will roll to Netanyahu, because in the centrist parties, instead of principles, there are only cabinet seats,” she said.
Likud MK Danny Danon said lawmakers who leave Kadima would receive a cold shoulder in his party.
“The Likud is not a political garbage can,” he said. “We won’t allow slots to be reserved for opportunists who left a sinking ship.”