The Kadima Party, formally known as Kadima Yisrael (Forward Israel), is an Israeli political party formed in November 2005 by then prime minister Ariel Sharon and leading Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum. The party was created following Sharon’s decision to break away from his own right-wing Likud Party after his plan to withdraw from Gaza and four West Bank settlements made him increasingly unpopular within the party.
During the establishment of Kadima, Sharon persuaded centrist political leaders from Labor and Likud to leave their own parties to join him. Among the notable politicians who defected to Kadima were Ehud Olmert, Meir Sheetrit, Roni Bar-On, Tzachi Hanegbi and Tzipi Livni from the Likud, and Shimon Peres, Haim Ramon and Dalia Itzik from Labor.
After Sharon suffered a series of strokes in 2005 which left him in a permanent coma, the leadership of Kadima was assumed by Ehud Olmert who led the party to a strong victory in the 2006 national elections, winning 29 of 120 Knesset seats. Some pundits speculated, however, that Kadima would have won closer to 40 seats has Peres been elected as leader.
Olmert resigned as party leader in 2008, following numerous allegations of corruption, and was replaced by Livni after a party leadership race against former IDF chief Shaul Mofaz, Sheetrit and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter.
Following her victory, Livni was immediately charged with forming a new coalition government, but failed after she refused to agree to Shas' demands and instead called another nationwide election for February 2009.
In the 2009 elections, Kadima beat Likud by one Knesset seat, but Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu was asked by President Shimon Peres to form a government after it became apparent Livni was unable to do so. After her subsequent refusal to join Netanyahu’s government, Kadima became Israel’s opposition party and Livni the leader of the opposition.