Kadima extends membership drive to November

Move could help Olmert and Livni, hurt Sheetrit and Mofaz.

Olmert naughty boy 224.8 (photo credit: AP)
Olmert naughty boy 224.8
(photo credit: AP)
The Kadima faction decided Monday to extend the party's membership drive from its current March 16 deadline to November 30, in a move that could boost Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's chances of getting reelected chairman of the party. The Kadima members will choose the party's leader in an eventual race between Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit and perhaps Public Security Minister Avi Dichter. The move could also help Livni, who, like Olmert, has not devoted time to signing up new members. It could hurt Sheetrit and Mofaz, who have been working hard to register as many supporters as possible ahead of next week's deadline. Kadima currently only has some 36,000 members, much fewer than Likud and Labor, which both have some 100,000. But the party's politicians have been keeping secret how many membership forms they were intending to submit on the eve of the deadline. The Kadima council will meet soon to authorize the move, as well as to decide to decrease the minimum number of months of membership necessary to vote in party elections from 25 to 13. That minimum will only apply after the current membership drive ends. The faction symbolically met at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in honor of the 16th anniversary of the former prime minister's death. Olmert said it was fitting to meet there because Kadima was made up of both followers of Begin's legacy and those who opposed it. But the Likud mocked Kadima for holding its meeting there. "There is nothing further from the legacy of Begin than the policies of the Olmert government, which is ready to divide Jerusalem and return to pre-67 borders," a party spokesman said. The Labor faction, meanwhile, took advantage of Kadima's absence from the Knesset to seize its larger room for its weekly meeting. Labor MKs jested over their new locale, with many raising their phones to snap photos of Barak in the prime minister's chair. Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report.