Yishai Calls on Mofaz to Join Cabinet, After Securing Kadima Chair

Kadima leader-elect indicates he will emphasize social issues as party head, but a new report by members of the social protest movement finds his record on social issues weak.

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Eli Yishai called Kadima chairman-elect Shaul Mofaz on Wednesday, urging him to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

In a statement, the Shas chairman said he told Mofaz that "at a time like this, with the State of Israel facing fateful decisions, unity is needed more than ever, and Mr. Mofaz can contribute much to that as a result of his vast experience."

Shaul Mofaz voting in the Kadima primary, March 27, 2012.
Tomer Appelbaum

Mofaz also received a call from Netanyahu himself earlier on Wednesday, in which the premier congratulated the former IDF chief for his Kadima primary victory.   

If speeches given by Mofaz during his campaign and following his victory are any indication, the newly elected Kadima leader is expected to try to win over voters by pursuing a strong social agenda, while pursuing the issues that emerged during last summer's social protests.

Earlier this week, Mofaz declared that he would stand at the forefront of the social protest movement, and that, while Israel is a military superpower, it is weak with regard to social issues.

Speaking late Tuesday night, Mofaz said he intended "to lead Israel to a new social order."

"We'll change the equation and return hope to the people of Israel. We'll make sure every boy and girl fulfills their duty to the state, but we'll also make sure that the right to housing, education, an honorable life, family and a dignified old age are within reach for all," he said.

"Kadima will restore respect to the working class, we'll end the shame of the working poor class in Israel," he added, before recounting stories of his childhood as a new immigrant, and of the fair chance that he received, which he hopes to ensure for others as well.

A few weeks ago, Mofaz approached one of the leaders of the social protest, Itzik Shmuli, shook his hand and said: "When I'm elected, you’re the first person I want on board." While not currently a contender for office, Shmuli is considered by many a potentially strong candidate for Knesset.

Mofaz also emphasized his intention of being a socially minded prime minister, along with his security credentials, during his previous contest against Livni in 2008. At the time, he attempted to distinguish himself from Livni, who was then director general of the Government Companies Authority, a position which involved overseeing the privatization of government companies, and whose socio-economic worldview is on the right side of the map.

In casting himself as the socially conscious candidate, Mofaz is entering a crowded field, which has largely been claimed already by others. Multiple candidates are attempting to win the votes of Israelis disappointed with the housing situation, the cost of living and the unequal distribution of the economic burden, who are looking to vote for a centrist party. He will be competing with Labor party chair Shelly Yachimovich, who has claimed ownership over economic issues, and Yair Lapid, whose current campaign slogan is "Where's the money?"

Meanwhile, according to a report published last week by the Social Guard in the Knesset, an offshoot of the social protest that monitors the parliamentary activities of MKs, Mofaz was found to be one of the least socially conscious legislators during the Knesset's winter term.

Kadima's two leading socially conscious MKs were found to be Shlomo Mula and Marina Solodkin, both Livni supporters, with attendance at over 70 relevant votes and high marks for their activities. Mofaz attended only 22 such votes and won a general mark of 11, placing him fifth from the bottom among Kadima members, while most of his supporters in the party were ranked near the bottom of the list.