Likud MKs May Join Kadima for Senior Posts

Officials from Kadima and Likud recently discussed the possibility of a group of Likud MKs leaving their party to join Kadima in exchange for senior government posts. Both parties yesterday confirmed the talks, but each side claimed that it was the other side that had initiated them.

Rumors that four Likud MKs - a third of the total - might join Kadima have been flying around for weeks. Supporters of Likud chair Benjamin Netanyahu have pointed an accusing finger at MKs Silvan Shalom, Limor Livnat, Danny Naveh and Michael Eitan. They claim interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected Livnat but would welcome the others and had even offered them jobs: a ministerial portfolio to Shalom, chairmanship of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee to Eitan and a deputy minister or ambassador position to Naveh. (The talks were held before Olmert and Labor Party chair Amir Peretz agreed to do away with deputy minister positions.)

Since by law no less than one third of a party can split off from it, Olmert's aides began looking for a fourth Likud MK. According to one version, Olmert aide Oved Yehezkel last week contacted a few of them, including Moshe Cahalon.

Last night Cahalon told Haaretz that he rejected Yehezkel's offer out of hand. Shalom, Eitan and Naveh said no one from Kadima had contacted them on the matter. Eitan confirmed that he had heard from another Likud source about the jobs that were supposedly being offered to party MKs who agreed to leave, including the possibility that he himself could retain the Constitution Committee chairmanship.

Olmert's office said last night that a Likud MK had contacted Yehezkel "about the possibility of joining and claimed he could recruit additional Likud MKs" but was rejected.