By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
The Kadima Party is expected, over the course of the next month, to begin the process of initiating a leadership race that will take place by the end of 2010, sources in the party said on Thursday.
MK Tzahi Hanegbi will convene Kadima's House Committee in two weeks to discuss procedural matters like enlarging the party's governing council and instituting a monthly membership fee. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's rival, MK Shaul Mofaz, will use that meeting to formally begin the process of initiating a leadership primary.
Livni will have to make a decision by then about whether she would support advancing the primary that is currently set for 60-90 days before the next general election, which could take place as late as November 2013. Her associates have said she is seriously considering holding the race as soon as possible in order to stymie Mofaz's attempts to unseat her.
Mofaz has succeeded in building support for holding the race in 2010. In the past two weeks, former Kadima leadership candidates and current MKs Meir Sheetrit and Avi Dichter have endorsed the move, as have Mofaz's loyalists, Ronit Tirosh and Otniel Schneller.
But even the lawmakers most loyal to Livni have expressed support for holding the race this year. One MK close to Livni admitted that he wanted the race as soon as possible, "so that if my candidate loses whoever wins will have enough time to forget about it by the time the next government is formed and ministerial portfolios are distributed."
Sheetrit said the current battles between Livni and Mofaz "can't be allowed to go on forever." He said he favored reaching a date for the race that all the candidates could agree on. Referring to Mofaz's demands that Livni set a date for the race immediately, Sheetrit said that "no one's going to do anything with a gun to their head."
Dichter has held meetings with Kadima MKs behind the scenes over the past week in which he discussed when the primary should be held. He said a consensus in the party understood it must be in 2010 in order to prevent the party from splitting. "I have been working to unify Kadima and keep it together," Dichter said. "I have been trying to persuade all the MKs in the party that the problems in Kadima must be solved inside Kadima and not by leaving Kadima."
Asked whether he would again challenge Livni and Mofaz, Dichter said: "When there will be a primary, I'll decide, but my tendency is always to run. If there will be a good reason not to run, I won't, but if not, I will."
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