Kadima Divided After Livni's Victory, Mofaz Exit

Mofaz resignation marks loss of party's most prominent Mizrahi member, man most identified with security.

On the eve of the Kadima primary, Shaul Mofaz was asked about threats by Tzipi Livni and Roni Bar-On to quit Kadima if he won. "Livni is not a loyal person," he said angrily. "Kadima is holding democratic elections for the first time and MKs will refuse to accept the results?"

He pledged that if he lost, he would stay and help the elected leader.

Thursday, after Livni won the primary, Mofaz quit. His confidants said he was deeply hurt. For weeks the media portrayed him as a wheeler-dealer, a functionary, a politician of the "old" sort versus the fresh, new, "other" politician. He had swallowed his pride, but last night he felt he had fallen into an ambush set up by the media and academia. Keeping the polling stations open longer, while broadcasting the erroneous exit polls on three channels 15 minutes before the polls' closing broke him.

His people said that dozens of voters standing in line heard the exit polls predicting a clear victory for Livni and simply turned around and went home. Is this what he deserves after 40 years of impeccable military and security service? they asked.

But it wasn't just the insult. Mofaz does not regard Livni highly. He cannot imagine working for her, reporting to her, waiting outside her office. For him the razor-thin loss was the most galling. Had he lost by a wide margin he wouldn't have flinched.

His resignation statement was dignified. He blamed nobody. He was a bit vague on the timetable but he is not likely to change his mind. After all, he is an officer and a gentleman.

His resignation is a harsh blow to Livni and Kadima. Since the party's establishment, Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon and Mofaz have resigned, each for his own reasons. Ehud Olmert will go soon and Haim Ramon may be on his way out. If he goes, Livni will be in trouble. Thursday she lost Kadima's most prominent Mizrahi representative as well as the man most identified with security.

Some observers speculated Thursday that Mofaz was heading back to Likud, to be Benjamin Netanyahu's defense minister. This is unlikely. Even Mofaz knows there's a limit to the number of times a man can flip-flop. Besides, Netanyahu has already promised that position to five people.

Mofaz's announcement left his supporters - ministers and MKs - stunned and lost. Nobody had expected the move. His people were convinced that after the election results he would demand the foreign ministry. An old acquaintance said he tried to find Mofaz Thursday morning but was told he had gone home to rest and would wake up in the evening. "I immediately suspected something," he said. "A man like Mofaz going to rest on such a day? That's so unlike him."