Report: Poraz refuses offer to rejoin Shinui after quitting

Seven MKs resign in solidarity with Poraz; Lapid may set up new party.

poraz 298  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
poraz 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
MK Avraham Poraz, who quit the party this week after suffering an upset in the party's internal elections, reportedly rejected Saturday an offer to rejoin the party in its number two slot, according to a Channel 2 report. Shinui chairman Yosef "Tommy" Lapid and former second-in-command Poraz were considering breaking from Shinui and forming a new party, according to sources close to them. Poraz quit the party after suffering a tremendous upset in the internal elections Thursday night, losing the No. 2 seat on the 18-member party list to Ron Lowenthal, Shinui leader on the Tel Aviv city council, 93-72. Ahead of the elections there were indications that Lapid would leave the party if Poraz lost. Lapid faced his own leadership challenge, garnering a mere 87 votes to the 62 of his competitor, Isaac Gilad. After winning the first vote of the evening, Lapid dismissed the close showing by his rival and said that the competition merely highlighted the "democratic" nature of Shinui. He and Poraz were unavailable for comment after the Lowenthal victory, however. They both left upon hearing the news and were said to be holding consultations about their next move, though a Lapid aide said that at the moment, "they are considering nothing." If the two are able to convince six of the current Shinui MKs to go with them (giving them a majority of the 14-member faction), they could take the Shinui name and budget with them to the new party they would form. Meanwhile, five MKs announced they were quitting the party: Ronny Brison; Poraz; Eti Livni; Meli Polishook Bloch; and Ilan Shalgi. Immediately after his victory, which he termed a "revolution," Lowenthal indicated he wanted Lapid to stay on as party chairman. "I really hope that Tommy Lapid will stay with us," he said. "It's not logical that a leader like Tommy Lapid will leave because of me." A lawyer, Lowenthal, 35, was able to unite a Shinui opposition that chafed at earlier proposals by Lapid and Poraz that the party keep the same list as in the current Knesset and because it blamed the leadership for Shinui's plunge in the polls. While Shinui entered this Knesset with 15 mandates, it currently is polling at three to five seats. "With this team the party went down and down and down, until it's at three or four Knesset members," said Haim Lowenthal, father of Ron Lowenthal and himself one of 169 members of the Shinui council, the body which determines the party list. Without "fresh blood," Lowenthal continued, "the party might have disappeared entirely." He criticized Lapid and Poraz for the tight grip they maintained on the party, including forbidding Shinui municipal council members like his son from joining in governing coalitions with religious parties. He indicated that a Shinui with his son at the helm could be willing to sit with religious parties. Gilad attacked Lapid for running the party as a "one-man show" and predicted the party would gain public support with different leadership. "The people of Israel love Shinui. They didn't like Tommy," he said. Shinui MK Reshef Chen, however, said that the opposition was led in large part by MKs who were worried about losing their seats and party operatives who were disappointed by Poraz's and Lapid's unwillingness to give out party patronage jobs. Chen, a member of the Lapid camp who decided not to run in Thursday's elections, declared that "Shinui has just committed suicide." He said the party opposition kept Lapid as the party head because "it realized it needed him to attract the voters." He called its activity a "miscalculation" because "I don't think he [Lapid] would be willing to lead this kind of list." The rest of the Shinui list had not been determined by press time. Former Shinui MK Yosef Paritzky welcomed the results and claimed credit for the maneuver to unseat Poraz. He said that Lapid and Poraz "should have been sent home long ago." Shas chairman Eli Yishai reacted with glee. "I said all along that a nasty party that fights the Torah wouldn't last," he said. "A party cannot be built on hate." A Kadima spokesman said that "the total breakup of Shinui is clear proof that the Israeli public prefers people who unite over people who divide and that the public wants Kadima." Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.