Tzachi Hanegbi
Tzachi Hanegbi Photo by Gil Cohen Magen
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Emil Salman
Tzachi Hanegbi with Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Emil Salman

One day after his abortive attempt to lead a group of Knesset members from Kadima to the Likud, Tzachi Hanegbi declared hisown  return to the Likud on Monday, seven years after he abandoned the party.

On his Facebook page, Hanegbi posted, "Whoever has been following the news over the last couple of days knows that after Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz's decision to break up the unity government, I was part of an effort to convince as many Kadima members as possible to support the government, and help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draw up a law to equalize sharing of the national burden, by August 1."

"Only a few MKs decided to join the effort, and therefore the military draft law won't be passed," Hanegbi continued. "The chances for next year's national budget to be approved are also low, and it's safe to assume that we will find ourselves in election mode fairly soon."

"In 2005, I followed Ariel Sharon, and lent my hand to founding the Kadima movement. Unfortunately, Kadima's current leadership no longer reflects my positions. For this reason, I answered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call to rejoin the ranks of the Likud. In the coming days I will officially sign the forms to re-join the party to which I belonged for over twenty years. Although I'm parting ways with Kadima, I wish all of its members and elected officials success in the future," Hanegbi wrote.

Earlier on Monday, political officials said that Hanegbi was interested in serving as Home Front Defense Minister, a position which would be of exceptional importance if Israel were to attack Iran in the coming weeks.

A Knesset committee is expected to convene on Tuesday morning to decide to adopt Mofaz's request to push out four of his party's MKs, for attempts to drop out of the Knesset faction and join Netanyahu's coalition. A Likud official said that the "move is hopeless. We have no intention of cooperating."

If Mofaz's effort succeeds, the four MKs in question, Avraham Duan, Yulia Shamalov Berkovich, Arie Bibi, and Otniel Schneller, would be hit with tough sanctions. They would not be prohibited from being appointed to ministerial positions or roles as committee leaders; nor would they be allowed to compete in the next elections under the banner of any party currently in the Knesset.

Such sanctions would be a death sentence on their political careers for at least the next few years. According to the law, the sanctions would not go into effect if they were to immediately step down.

Mofaz decided to attempt to push out the four MKs from their positions in the Knesset through legal channels,  by asking the Knesset House Committee to declare that the MKs quit the party.

If the move succeeds, the MKs will be subject to hearings in which they, or their lawyers, will have to deal with the claim that they quit their party.

According to Likud estimations, the chances that the committee will declare all four MKs as quitting their party are low. "Mofaz's move is not serious, and has no chance of being accepted," said Michael Eitan, minister for the improvement of government services.

 "MKs are not puppets that can be cast away or punished because of internal differences of opinion. The law states certain criteria necessary to declare an MK has quit his or her party, and this case those criteria don't exist, so there is no chance the request will be accepted," said Eitan.

Other Likud officials also estimate that their faction will oppose Mofaz's move in the Knesset House Committee. Section six of the Basic Law governing the Knesset states that an MK that quit his or her faction independent of a party split or stepping down for retirement, cannot run for a seat in the next elections under the banner of any party currently in the Knesset.

Mofaz will have to prove on Tuesday morning that the four MKs in question have in fact ceased to function as members of Kadima. It will not be enough to prove that the MKs went against party positions, but that they also received compensation for voting with a different party, in this case, the Likud.

Read this article in Hebrew