Kadima Party Set to Split, as Members in Talks to Join Netanyahu Government

Party members are trying to gather seven members to leave Kadima, forcing a split; four members have already committed to the move.

The Kadima faction is expected to split, if not today then by the end of the week. Former minister Tzachi Hanegbi has been spearheading efforts to convince at least seven Kadima MKs - the minimum required to create a new faction - to break off and rejoin the coalition.

"Kadima is a sinking ship, it's a fait accompli. All its MKs are looking for lifeboats," said one Kadima MK.

If the move succeeds, Hanegbi will likely be named home front defense minister.

A senior legal expert said yesterday that under the Basic Law: The Government, Hanegbi could serve as a minister in the current government - even though he was forced to resign his Knesset seat some two years ago due to his perjury conviction, which the court said reflected moral turpitude.

He was not sentenced to prison, however, and moral turpitude is not mentioned in that basic law.

Nevertheless, a ministerial appointment would probably not survive a challenge in the High Court of Justice, the expert added.

Four MKs are thought to favor breaking off from their colleagues: Otniel Schneller, Jacob Edery, Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich and Arie Bibi. Others mooted as candidates for such a move, including Avi Dichter, Yisrael Hasson and Dalia Itzik, will apparently not join the breakaway faction in the end.

Meanwhile, several Kadima MKs who were considered supporters of former party chair Tzipi Livni have been holding their own discussions about breaking off. One idea is to join the more right-wing Kadima deserters as a first step, and later to look for places in more left-wing parties.

Specifically, in this context, MKs Nino Abesadze, Nahman Shai, Orit Zuaretz and Robert Tiviaev have been mentioned as wanting to follow Hanegbi now and later trying to join the Labor or Meretz parties. Of course, it isn't clear how making a move that initially strengthens Netanyahu's government will make these MKs attractive candidates to such left-wing parties later.

Nevertheless, said one party source, "All those who want to leave Kadima understand that this coming split will be their only opportunity. After breaking away now, it's doubtful they'll be able to get a third of the faction remaining behind to organize yet another split."

Yet there is also talk among around seven MKs affiliated with the Livni camp about trying to form their own, left-wing group.

"In the tense atmosphere that's been created, there are a few MKs who might tip the scales: They have to decide whether to join the 'right-wing split,' even though they aren't right wing, or join a 'left-wing split' and make that happen," said one undecided MK.

According to sources, yet another group of Kadima MKs would be happy to see others bolt because they believe it would give them a chance to improve their positions in the party in the next elections - even if the Knesset faction ends up shrinking.

Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz is expected once again to be named chairman of the opposition, as leader of the largest opposition party - at least for now. His associates reject the notion that a split in the party is imminent, but other Kadima MKs say the die has been cast.

"This is a tragedy for Mofaz," one MK said. "It's interesting to see how all those MKs who raised Mofaz up are now burying him. But Mofaz should have known that if he was going to sleep with dogs, he'd wake up one day with fleas."

Read this article in Hebrew

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz.
Moti Milrod
Dalia Itzik
Tomer Appelbaum