Haim Ramon Seeking to Form Kadima Breakaway Faction Under Livni's Leadership, Sources Say

Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz says he intends to expel the four MKs who were planning to quit the party.

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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Hours after a group of hawkish Kadima MKs reneged on their plan to split the party on Monday, political sources said former minister Haim Ramon was attempting to convince the party's left-leaning members to eventually form their own breakaway faction.

Likud and Kadima sources said Ramon asked the more dovish party members to stay in the party for now, but is looking to form a breakaway faction under the leadership of the previous Kadima leader, Tzipi Livni.

Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz said on Monday that he intended to expel the four MKs who were planning to quit the party and form a faction that would join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition.

Mofaz said he would ask the Knesset's House Committee to approve the ejection of MKs who have refused to retract their intention to leave the party. Those MKs are Arie Bibi, Avraham Duan, Otniel Schneller and Yulia Shamalov Berkovich.

If the House Committee approves their expulsion from Kadima, they could either join Likud (in which case they would not be eligible to run for the Knesset in the next election ) or resign from the Knesset, in which case Kadima could name four new MKs in their stead.

"Those who want to join the corrupt can go," Mofaz said at a press conference. "Those who want to receive political bribes or a junior position in an oversized cabinet can go. Those who want to sell their values can go."

Kadima left the coalition recently over a dispute with Netanyahu over conscription. Mofaz wants the prime minister to take a harder line on forcing the ultra-Orthodox to join the army.

Mofaz said any member of his party "who negotiated with Netanyahu and was willing to be part of the Netanyahu-Hanegbi disgrace should think long and hard with his family and the public that sent him."

Earlier on Monday, the breakaway efforts spearheaded by former Kadima minister Tzachi Hanegbi failed after several MKs "got cold feet," as one party member put it.

"The attempts to split [Kadima] fell down like a house of cards," the party member said.

MKs Nino Abesadze, Nachman Shai, Jacob Edery and Zeev Bielski all backtracked on their initial intent to withdraw.

Sources in the centrist party said those planning to leave Kadima feared they would be considered opportunistic, after Duan announced he would be named deputy social affairs minister after the breakaway faction came to power.

Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich called on left-leaning Kadima MKs to join her party. "Labor has a duty to call on those ideological MKs who realize Kadima has ended its role [to join us] and increase our power against Netanyahu," she said.

A Likud MK involved in the negotiations with Kadima members interested in joining the coalition said Hangebi did not have the seven people needed by law to break away from Kadima and create a separate faction.

He said more than half of Kadima's MKs took part in the negotiations at some point, including those who later denied it. Some MKs bargained with both Ramon and Likud to see where they could get the best perks.

Shaul Mofaz entering a press conference at the Knesset July 23, 2012.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi