Exclusive: Kadima MKs plan to split from party

Olmert opponent says MKs wish to maximize power and guarantee political future after Winograd.

olmert 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
olmert 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A group of at least 10 Kadima MKs is seriously considering breaking off from Kadima before the final Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War is released, in order to maximize their power and guarantee their political future, one of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's opponents in the faction revealed this week. The MK said Olmert's assumption that he would face no major political crisis until the release of the Winograd Report, due no earlier than October, was false. A third of Kadima's 29 MKs would be needed to break off and form an independent faction, but a smaller number might decide to join existing parties. The MKs organizing the split said they had purposely left open their political endgame to allow as many lawmakers as possible to participate in the rebellion. For instance, MK Shai Hermesh is considered an Olmert opponent, but unlike other potential rebels, as a veteran Laborite and kibbutznik, he would not be willing to join the Likud. "There could ensue many processes [following a split], and it's better to take care of them before Winograd," a Kadima MK told The Jerusalem Post. "All the options are open. There are other parties that are interested in forming blocs. The entire political map could be reshaped." One of the MKs leading the rebellion said that cabinet ministers, crucial to the success of the revolt, were involved. MK Ze'ev Elkin, who angered Olmert by refusing to vote for the election of Shimon Peres as president in June, went on record as saying, "I don't think we have to wait for Winograd to fix all of Kadima's problems." Some of the MKs involved in the uprising are interested in forcing Olmert out of the Kadima chairmanship due to his supposed failures in the Second Lebanon War and his unpopularity in the polls. And some of them would agree to call off the rebellion if he were to be replaced. Many of the rebels are backbenchers who would have little chance of getting reelected in Kadima and are unattractive to other parties, who hope that leaving at an opportune time might allow them to negotiate realistic slots on another party list before the next election. At least two of the MKs have met secretly with Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, who expressed interest in bringing them into his party. Other Kadima legislators have recently discussed their futures with the leaders of Labor and Israel Beiteinu. MK Yisrael Katz, who heads the Likud's governing secretariat, said that as time went on, the value of lawmakers who might break off from Kadima diminished. Katz, who is in charge of deciding whether to waive a three-year party membership minimum for a candidate to run for the Likud's Knesset slate, said he would rather see the list filled with names like former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya'alon and former finance minister Dan Meridor than the least popular MKs in Kadima. "I haven't given up on 10 Kadima MKs breaking off and joining us, but I only want them if they come soon," Katz said. "Otherwise they would need us more than we need them. It's only worth getting them…if they have something to give us, like advancing the election [date] or significantly hurting Kadima." Kadima officials close to Olmert said the party would survive long after the careers of the MKs involved in the potential rebellion were over. They said the numerous political events being conducted by the party and the seriousness with which its leaders were taking the current membership drive proved Kadima had a long future ahead of it. Several Kadima candidates are planning pre-Rosh Hashana toasts for hundreds of party activists, as are their counterparts in Labor and Likud. Olmert will hold his toast at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on September 6. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter will hold a large event at the Country Club in Herzliya on Saturday night, September 1.