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MK Michael Nudelman (Yisrael Beiteinu) on Sunday became the 17th legislator to announce he is joining Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new party, Kadima, bringing its total faction number to three short of Labor's 20 seats.

The Likud, which had 40 seats before Sharon's departure last week, remains the largest party in the Knesset, but now only has 26 Knesset seats. Labor is second, and Shinui, which was the third largest party, has 14 seats in the Knesset.

Since its creation last week, Kadima has attracted 14 MKs from Likud, as well as MK David Tal of One Nation and MK Haim Ramon from Labor.

Nudelman, who is an economics and mathematics professor who emigrated from the former Soviet Union in 1991 and settled in Kiryiat Shmona in the Upper Galilee, is said to bring in the Russian immigrant vote.

He is the second Russian-speaking MK to have joined Sharon's party alongside MK Marina Solodkin, formerly of the Likud.

Haaretz Journalist Mazal Mualem adds that Vice Premier and former Labor chairman Shimon Peres met with Ramon and Sharon's confidant Uri Shani. In the meeting he was told that if he were to join Kadima he would be secured a position suitable of his skills.