FM: I may leave Kadima if I lose primary

Livni threatens to bolt party; candidates agree to debate; Dichter: I for one am staying in Kadima.

Kadima candidates 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Kadima candidates 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni warned the Kadima faction in a meeting at the party's Petah Tikva headquarters on Monday that if she lost the Kadima leadership race, she would not remain in the party. She made the threat in a complex statement that faction members admitted they did not fully understand. Her associates later said she meant that she should not be expected to remain as a "mandate-bringing wallflower" in the party if she is not its leader. "Kadima is an idea and a path and our obligation is to the path it represents," Livni said. "We are obligated to a different kind of politics. The significance of this is that we can all support the ideas we agree with without regard to our position in the party, just like we don't support things we do not believe in at any given time, even if we are promised jobs. We as public representative need to act this way for ourselves and for our voters." Polls have shown that Livni would bring Kadima many more seats in the next Knesset than any other candidate. But a poll sponsored by the Labor party recently found that Livni would fare poorly if she left Kadima and formed a new party. Sources close to Livni's main competition in the race, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, responded that such an ultimatum would harm her politically. They said it was unfortunate that Livni was admitting that she would not honor the decision of Kadima voters. "If she wants to run around issuing threats like a prima donna, she can be my guest, because it won't help her win the race," a Mofaz associate said. The background behind Livni's threat was an idea raised by Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and MK Tzahi Hanegbi to require the four Kadima leadership candidates to engage in clean campaigning. According to the proposal, the second slot on the Kadima list would be reserved for whoever finished second in the race and all the candidates would promise to remain in the party no matter who won. Itzik, Hanegbi, Mofaz and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter spoke in favor of the proposal, saying that all the candidates must make clear that they are in Kadima to stay no matter what happened in the race. "I, for one, am staying in Kadima," Dichter said. "This is my home. "There is no justification for allowing the 70,000 plus people who joined the party to not know if the candidates will be here after the primary is over." But the faction decided not to endorse the proposal, because it did not have enough support. Hanegbi said the winner of the race could decide on their own whether to reserve the second slot for the second-place finisher. Later in the meeting, the four Kadima leadership candidates agreed to make their opinions known on key issues by holding a televised debate within the next three weeks. The debate will be held at the initiative of Harvard-educated Kadima MK Yohanan Plessner, who said it was important for the public to know where the candidates stood on issues like the diplomatic talks with the Palestinians and Syria and the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip. "My pleasure - anywhere and in any situation," said Livni in response to the proposal. The foreign minister also received two important endorsements Monday, from former cabinet secretary Yisrael Maimon and Kadima MK Yoel Hasson. Mofaz will unveil his campaign at an event in Jerusalem on Tuesday. The slogan will be "Acharai (follow me) to our security - Shaul Mofaz," intended to highlight his leadership and military experience. Kadima's legal advisor Eitan Haberman revealed in the meeting that the party's internal courts recommended holding another vote to approve holding a primary at all, because of legal problems with the first vote. Haberman said a decision would be made soon on whether to agree to the court's request.