Avi Dichter and Shaul Mofaz
Avi Dichter and Shaul Mofaz. Photo by Alon Ron
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MK Avi Dichter (Kadima ) is set to be appointed tomorrow as minister of home front defense.

Dichter yesterday submitted his letter of resignation from the Knesset in order to accept a "professional" ministerial appointment. He will replace Matan Vilnai, who is taking up a post as Israel's ambassador to China.

Dichter will take part in the council of nine coalition ministers, where he is likely to serve as the swing vote in crucial cabinet balloting, including in a possible vote on whether to attack Iran. He will also be included as an observer on the diplomatic-security inner cabinet.

Sources close to the Prime Minister said that "Dichter is the right man at the right place at the right time, and he has a security track record which warrants the seriousness the prime minister accords to this appointment."

Dichter, who yesterday announced his resignation from the Kadima party, is reportedly "looking for a new political home," apparently with Likud, according to sources close to Dichter. Yet Dichter has expressed no immediate intention of joining any party.

For many months Dichter has expressed his disappointment with steps taken by Kadima leaders Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz. He voiced criticism of the latter's decision to leave the government following failed efforts to forge a new law for the conscription of the ultra-Orthodox. Time after time, Dichter's name surfaced as a possible member of a faction that might split away from Kadima and join Likud. Yet when the time came for such a move a few weeks ago, he decided to stick with Kadima and not join the group of Kadima MKs whose bid to break away ended in failure. Dichter's appointment is not expected to bring about any change in the alignment of forces between the coalition and the opposition.

Kadima will add one MK to its roster and remain with 28 MKs.

Dichter's associates praised the new ministerial appointee for his putatively non-partisan steps and efforts "not to destroy Kadima." However, Kadima politicians yesterday argued that the law required Dichter to resign from the Knesset in order to join the government.

"Dichter spoke about breaking away from Kadima weeks ago, and now that nobody would join him in such a renegade act, he's leaving on his own. That's not a move bereft of political self-interest," one politician argued.

Kadima politicians also drew a link yesterday between Dichter's appointment and the ongoing effort by the Netanyahu and Barak to muster support for a unilateral attack on Iran.

"Citizens of Israel should be worried about the wide-ranging implications of this new move," a Kadima statement declared. "This is the direct continuation of a jingoistic campaign undertaken by the prime minister and the defense minister, who never miss an opportunity to canvass among Knesset members on behalf of their dangerously messianic whims."

In recent months, Dichter has delivered ambiguous messages about an Iranian attack. He refused to give media interviews yesterday.