Kadima's Left Flank Delays Schism Due to Problems in Recruiting Enough MKs

MKs fear they will be viewed as engaging in self-serving political machination.

Supporters of former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni are not expected to announce on Wednesday that they are breaking from the party to form a new faction, and the delay raises questions about whether the anticipated schism will ever occur.

Politicians familiar with Kadima's inner workings said there are two reasons for the delay: difficulties in recruiting the seven Knesset members needed to form a new faction, and fears among Kadima's left flank that they will be viewed as engaging in self-serving political machinations, just as the right-leaning MKs involved in another failed bid to splinter the party earlier this week were.

"The schism is taking shape," one MK thought to be involved in it insisted on Wednesday. "I can't say right now whether or not we have seven MKs in hand, but things are progressing. We also want to keep as much distance as we can from the disgraceful effort made recently by other Kadima members, who contemplated leaving the party in order to secure jobs for themselves."

Another Kadima MK involved in the effort said that "the break [from Kadima] isn't the main thing right now, in our eyes. There is an attempt to unite the center-left parties" - meaning Livni's followers, Labor and "perhaps [Yair] Lapid's party. The idea is to unite these groups in order to defeat [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu."

Current Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz "is not a real alternative to the current government," this MK added.

Meanwhile, the Knesset House Committee on Wednesday rejected Mofaz's request to oust four Kadima members from the faction for having negotiated with Likud about leaving Kadima and joining the ruling party. The MKs in question are Yulia Shamalov Berkovich, Otniel Schneller, Avraham Duan and Arie Bibi.

Had the four been officially ousted from the faction, they would have been disqualified from serving as ministers or deputy ministers in the current Knesset and would have been banned from running for the next Knesset as candidates of any party now in parliament.

But following a stormy session at which panel members slammed Mofaz for being absent from a meeting he himself had requested and derided his motion as "vacuous, insulting and undignified," the committee rejected the motion by a vote of 11 to 2.

Coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin (Likud ) told the committee that more than half of Kadima's MKs have conducted talks about the possibility of leaving the party in recent months. But the four MKs at issue denied having been offered senior cabinet or Knesset posts, adding that they had never affixed their signatures to any document calling for breaking away from Kadima.

"I never signed an agreement making me a deputy minister, or anything like that," Bibi told the committee. "All such talk is media speculation."

Schneller, who was never rumored to be motivated by the lure of a more prestigious job, charged that "Kadima never really wanted to legislate a bill for equality of obligations in military service. I wanted to create a new faction that would promote such a law."

Kadima MKs Meir Sheetrit, Otniel Schneller and Avi Duan during a Knesset committee meeting.
Emil Salman