Kadima has lost touch with vital Negev, Galilee supporters, party malcontents claim

Kadima has lost touch wi

livni solemn at kadima meeting 248.88 (photo credit: Channel 1)
livni solemn at kadima meeting 248.88
(photo credit: Channel 1)
Kadima runs the risk of turning into a secularist party that only represents the well-heeled Tel Aviv suburbs, a veteran Kadima official associated with MK Eli Aflalo complained Thursday to The Jerusalem Post. The party, the official charged, was quickly forgetting its contacts in the periphery - a decision that he said would cost it dearly in the next election season. The official, who has been associated with the party since its establishment by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, said that under Tzipi Livni's direction, Kadima had increasingly alienated its activists in the development towns of the Negev and the Galilee. In doing so, he said, the party was ignoring large segments of its electorate - without which it could not return to power. Aflalo, who on Tuesday filed his official request to separate from Kadima, was reported Wednesday to have been conducting negotiations with the Likud along with two other Kadima MKs - Meir Sheetrit and Ya'acov Edri. Both Sheetrit and Edri were, like Aflalo, former development town mayors - Sheetrit in Yavne and Edri in Or Akiva. Edri has denied the reports of the meeting, and Sheetrit even spoke out against Kadima dissenters. But the Kadima official said Thursday that reports of Sheetrit's and Edri's discontent were anything but coincidence, and that there was a growing feeling that those who did not fit in with Kadima's "north Tel Aviv" image were no longer first-class party members. In a conversation last week with the Post, yet another Kadima discontent - also a former member of local government in a periphery development town - said that the root of his unhappiness was also a feeling that Livni did not value his contribution to the party. That MK said that his decision to remain in Kadima was made in spite of Livni's leadership, and out of a desire to support the party's original ideological aims. Aflalo was considered a key vote-getter in such periphery communities, often accompanying Livni to rallies. The former Afula mayor was a key supporter of Livni during the narrowly won primaries campaign against MK Shaul Mofaz. But in recent months, Aflalo said earlier this week, he had become disappointed by Livni's leadership. Although Aflalo's letter to Livni requesting her assent to leave the party was expected for a number of days before it was actually filed, Livni still had not responded as of Thursday. In fact, Livni has no formal obligation to respond in a timely manner. And were he to bolt without her consent, Aflalo would face sanctions that would effectively prevent him from functioning as an MK and being reelected. As a member of the Kadima faction until Livni determines otherwise, Aflalo can still appear at faction meetings and participate, as well as to try to push for his voluntarily removal. Ultimately, Aflalo could also try and push for a faction vote on his separation if Livni remains noncommittal on the subject.