National Union to woo Likud MKs if 'Mofaz Bill' passes

MK Uri Ariel backs working quietly to persuade seven Likud MKs that they have a potential home in his party.

uri Ariel 248.88 (photo credit: Knesset)
uri Ariel 248.88
(photo credit: Knesset)
The right-wing National Union Party will begin efforts to persuade Likud ministers and MKs to join their party following Monday's expected passage of the so-called "Mofaz Bill", National Union MKs said Tuesday. The bill, which would allow seven MKs to break off from large factions even if they do not constitute a third of its legislators, was designed to allow Kadima's No. 2, MK Shaul Mofaz, to jump ship to Likud with six of his party colleagues. But it would also enable seven Likud MKs to leave if their party headed too far Left. Kadima MK Yoel Hasson even suggested, in Tuesday's Knesset House Committee meeting, that the bill be renamed the "Hotovely bill," in honor of rightist Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely. The National Union faction contemplated voting in favor of the bill because of the windfall the four-man faction could potentially receive. But ultimately, the party decided to oppose it, because they believed it was undemocratic and unethical. National Union MK Uri Ariel said that rather than publicly back the bill, it would be more effective to begin working quietly to persuade seven Likud MKs that they had a potential home in his party. "We believe a large portion of the Likud opposes Netanyahu's declared support for a Palestinian state and [not-yet declared] support for freezing construction in Judea and Samaria," Ariel said. "There is potential for seven Likud MKs to leave. I hope we won't have to get to that point, but if it does, it will be up to the MKs." Names of potential Likud defectors raised in Tuesday's faction meeting included Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, and MKs Hotovely, Danny Danon, and Yariv Levin. One name that was surprisingly not raised was that of minister-without-portfolio Bennie Begin, who left the Likud for ideological reasons and ran for prime minister as the head of the National Union list in the 1999 election. Sources in the party said they were disappointed with Begin's failure to seriously criticize Netanyahu when he endorsed a Palestinian state in his June 14 speech at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center. "We hope the Likud MKs they will pressure Netanyahu to keep the Likud where it should be on the ideological level," National Union faction secretary Uri Bank said. "We don't want them to have to break away from the Likud. But if he withdraws in Judea and Samaria, they would have to." But National Union MK Arye Eldad said he had serious doubts that any Likud MK cared enough about his or her ideology to leave the Likud, no matter what diplomatic concessions Netanyahu would make. "There is not a single MK who could move to the Right or to any party because Netanyahu bought them all, and already now they don't dare admit that Netanyahu betrayed the principles of the Right," Eldad said.