Mofaz requests urgent talks with Livni amid Kadima earthquake

MKs sign deal to leave K

Amid an apparent earthquake in Kadima following the commitment by six MKs to leave the party, Kadima No. 2 Shaul Mofaz on Thursday asked for an urgent meeting with party head Tzipi Livni to discuss the "dismantlement of the party." Meanwhile, one of the six party rebels, MK Eli Aflalo, repeated his request for Livni to let him set up a one-man faction. In an interview with Israel Radio, Aflalo said that he had lost faith in Livni's leadership, even though he still thinks that she is "an honest person." Aflalo stressed that he just "cannot accept the fact that MK Livni is leading the Kadima party to the Left when it is supposed to be a centrist party." Sources close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed on Wednesday night that at least six Kadima MKs had signed a document with Netanyahu's adviser Yitzhak Molho last week committing themselves to leave the party. Netanyahu and his associates have negotiated with 15 Kadima MKs about leaving Kadima over the past three months and they hope to persuade 10, but just seven are needed in order to legally split off from the party. Earlier Thursday morning, Kadima MK Yohanan Plessner blasting Netanyahu for his apparent attempt to break up the party. Plessner told Israel Radio that "the stinking move of the 1990s" was nothing compared to the actions of the prime minister today. "Netanyahu is trying to empty the Knesset and buy politicians for tens of thousands of shekels at the public's expense," he said. Plessner said the prime minister was "severely damaging public faith and the political establishment," and called on public servants and Likud lawmakers to "say enough" of these deals. Meanwhile, Likud MK Yariv Levin said it was "not a difficult task" to break up Kadima, adding that dividing a party born out of "a sinful split from Likud" is "legitimate and historic justice." He said the aim of the move was not revenge, but rather to expand the support base for the government and boost the stability of the political establishment. Levin claimed that many of those who split from the Likud when Kadima was formed in 2005 did so because they were not chosen for "realistic spots" on the party list. Kadima MK Marina Solodkin fiercely criticized MKs who intended to leave, saying Wednesday that "the Russian street spits on traitors." Kadima council chairman Haim Ramon accused Netanyahu and Labor chairman Ehud Barak of conspiring to split Kadima in what he said was an act of chauvinism against Livni. Labor director-general Weizmann Shiri responded that Ramon, as a convicted sex offender who helped split the Likud, had no right to preach about chauvinism or efforts to split Kadima. Aflalo, Ronit Tirosh, Shai Hermesh, Otniel Schneller, Aryeh Bibi and Yulia Shamalov Berkovich reportedly signed the forms to split from the party, while MK Ze'ev Boim and other Kadima legislators were expected to join the move soon. Netanyahu's associates said they had not decided yet when to turn the forms over to the Knesset House Committee to proceed with the split, adding that a lot depended on the final decisions of the remaining MKs and the progress in negotiations to bring home kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. Aflalo already told Kadima leader Tzipi Livni on Tuesday that he intended to leave the party on his own, because he was angry at her for not helping him get re-elected to the Knesset after he was instrumental in helping her win the Kadima leadership against MK Shaul Mofaz. "You betrayed me and I don't believe in you anymore," Aflalo told Livni, in the heated conversation. Each of the MKs who leave Kadima will become a minister, deputy minister or Knesset committee chairman. Aflalo is expected to be named Negev and Galilee development minister, Tirosh will be a minister in the Foreign Ministry, Boim could be minister of Jerusalem and pensioners affairs, Shamalov Berkovich deputy communications minister, Bibi deputy internal security minister, Hermesh deputy agriculture minister, and Schneller chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Kadima MK Yoel Hasson wrote Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Wednesday asking him whether such promises were legally considered bribery. Netanyahu's associates said they were not concerned. They accused Livni of hypocrisy for condemning Netanyahu's moves at the same time that she was trying to woo the Labor rebels to her party. "Livni's problem is not Netanyahu, but her own lack of leadership," a source close to Netanyahu said. "She should not complain about the prime minister if she is unable to lead her own party." Livni's associates responded that she never offered any position to anyone from Labor, which was splitting without any connection to Kadima. They expressed hope that the extensive coverage of efforts to split the party would persuade MKs to stay. "Netanyahu's people offered me a gentleman's agreement to leave but I told them it wasn't what I was looking for at this time," a Kadima MK told Livni on Wednesday. "I stayed in Kadima because I believe in its opinions, not because I believe in you." Mofaz tried over the last few days to persuade Kadima MKs allied with him to remain in the party. He intends to blast Livni if the split takes place. Meanwhile, former prime minister Ariel Sharon's sons, Gilad and Omri, reportedly called Kadima MKs and tried to persuade them to stay in Kadima, the party that their father founded four years ago. The MKs that leave Kadima are expected to form a new faction before most of them join Likud. An MK or two might join Israel Beiteinu or Labor instead. Hermesh wants to return to Labor, the party he started in.