Livni ambushes Mofaz in Kadima faction meeting

Party closes final door to coalition.

livni kadima faction meeting 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
livni kadima faction meeting 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Kadima faction decided on Monday that it would not send a negotiating team to talk to the Likud about joining a national-unity government, endorsing the view of the party's leader, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The decision ended any remaining chance of Kadima serving in the coalition being formed by Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, and means that the party's ministers will soon retreat to the section of the Knesset plenum reserved for the opposition. "The conditions necessary for continuing coalition negotiations have not been met, especially the willingness to create two states for two peoples, initiate electoral reform and allow civil unions," the party decided. "Therefore we must maintain our principles and remain in the opposition." Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who favored forming a negotiating team, sent reporters a text message informing them that in the decision voted on by the faction, the words "at this point, if things don't change" had been added, but Kadima's spokesman neglected to include the words in the version distributed to the press. Livni ambushed the former IDF chief of General Staff by having him speak first at the meeting and then having no fewer than 20 Kadima MKs speak after him and criticize his point of view. Kadima's spokesman was instructed to send the press text messages revealing what each MK said in the closed-door meeting. Mofaz noted in his speech that the party had promised during its campaign that it would put the good of the country ahead of its own good. He questioned whether going to the opposition fulfilled that promise. "There must be a team to work to bridge the gaps between the parties," Mofaz told the faction. "There is a difference between supporting a government dealing with crises from outside and influencing from inside. We shouldn't look like people who for [political] reasons are not ready to look for common ground. The public expects us to use our 28 mandates to [exert] influence as partners." Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila started the anti-Mofaz fest by saying that "negotiations should only be held when there is a basis for them" and accusing Netanyahu of "choosing the legacy of Kahane." "The public didn't vote for us to join a right-wing extremist government from the back door," Avraham said. Vice Premier Haim Ramon added that "when a party insists on staying in the government at any price, it gets lost." He said that no foreign leader would talk to Netanyahu, because he had not come out clearly in favor of a two-state solution. Perhaps the most blunt of Mofaz's critics was Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, who said that "opposition is the only option" and added that "whoever wants to join the government should return to the Likud, where you will be welcomed." Mofaz's associates said after the meeting that he was not angry, frustrated or disappointed. They said he was, in fact, amused, because many of the MKs who attacked his point of view in the faction meeting had endorsed it in private conversations with him. Sources close to Mofaz noted that MK Dalia Itzik had made a point of not attending the meeting, and MK Tzahi Hanegbi had made a point of not speaking. They said that a few MKs had also indicated in their remarks to the faction that they were not closing the door on joining Netanyahu's government later on. Shelly Paz contributed to this report.