Kadima Faces Split, as Unity Cabinet Leaves Both Winners and Losers

Moves are afoot in Kadima to break off and form new faction under former leader Tzipi Livni.

Newly minted Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Thursday that he had joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to take advantage of a historic opportunity.

On his Facebook page, Mofaz, chairman of Kadima, wrote: "I am not indifferent to the sharp criticism raised here and in the media over the past few days, but this is a historic opportunity for significant moves for the good of the Israeli public. To my mind, it would be irresponsible to miss this opportunity. I and I alone take responsibility, and the outcome will be the test, which I will meet," he added.

Shaul Mofaz
Olivier Fitoussi

The small number of positions to be given to Kadima are to be distributed in the coming days. MK Avi Dichter is on the short list to become chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, but he reportedly may pass on this offer wait for another post to become available in the next few months. Dichter is considered one of the big winners in Kadima's move from the opposition to the coalition. He had declared throughout his election campaign that Kadima should join the Netanyahu government.

MKs Meir Sheetrit, Ruhama Avraham Balila and Roni Bar-On are expected to take some of the first ministerial and Knesset committee chairman's posts available.

If Dichter does not take the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yohanan Plesner and Israel Hasson have reportedly also been touted for the job.

Kadima MKs who belong to former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni's camp say a split in the party seems almost inevitable.

Five MKs are believed to be looking for a way out of the party under the right circumstances - Shlomo Molla, Orit Zuaretz, Nino Abesadze, Robert Tiviaev and Majallie Whbee.

Most of this group was not present when the Knesset voted in the national unity government on Wednesday.

If they can persuade two more lawmakers to join them, they will have the requisite seven members entitling them to funding as a separate faction; if the number rises to nine, their faction could lead the opposition.

The five are said to be waiting for word from Livni. If she establishes a new party, which Livni observers say is fairly likely considering her conduct since she lost the Kadima chairmanship, the five can be expected to join her.

The conduct of these five MKs could spark numerous crises even before the new government deals with an alternative to the Tal Law on widespread exemptions from military service for ultra-Orthodox men, or with the evacuation of the Ulpana neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, as ordered by the High Court of Justice.

One of these MKs said: "On Sunday MK Miri Regev's bill on annexation of settlements is coming up for a vote. Are we supposed to vote for it? What will be left of our principles?"

The MK added: "What if they want to raise VAT to 17 percent? I won't agree to that under any circumstances."

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Kadima Council and one of the party's founders, Haim Ramon, announced he was leaving the party. He is expected to join Livni in founding a new party.

"Kadima is at the end of the road in terms of what it was supposed to be - an alternative to the government," Ramon said on Thursday. Ramon said he believed Kadima would disappear into Likud in the next elections.