Several high-profile "deserters" who came from other parties to Kadima are currently keeping a very low profile, at the request of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's advisers, who hope in this way to mute public criticism of their moves and thereby minimize any damage to Kadima.

The "deserters" in question include Shimon Peres and Dalia Itzik from Labor, and Tzachi Hanegbi and Shaul Mofaz from Likud.

These desertions have sparked criticism of Kadima on two fronts: first, over Sharon's apparently insatiable appetite for destroying other political parties, and second, over the rank opportunism of those who seemingly moved to Kadima solely to secure better post-election jobs, rather than for ideological reasons.

The latter criticism applies particularly to Peres and Mofaz - the former for moving to Kadima only after failing to win the leadership of Labor; and Mofaz, who was trailing badly in the polls and was seen as having no chance to win Likud's top spot.

With regard to Peres and Itzik, there is also another issue: Sharon's advisers fear that they might say something that would give the party a leftist image, whereas it has been trying to portray itself as centrist. A leftist image could hurt Kadima among Likud voters, who are currently the source of most of its support.

Mofaz gave a news conference on Sunday to announce his move to Kadima, but since then he has avoided the media, refusing dozens of requests for interviews. Following a Kadima faction meeting yesterday, Mofaz did agree to answer reporters' questions on professional matters relating to his ministry, but he refused to speak about political or party matters.

Peres and Itzik, in contrast, have completely disappeared from the media since abandoning Labor for Kadima.