Unruly Youngster, Responsible Adult

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Kadima MK Tzachi Hanegbi about a month ago and asked, at the end of the meeting, if there was anything to talk about with Kadima leader Tzipi Livni regarding a national unity government. Hanegbi said Livni would demand changing the composition of the cabinet so the chances for a unity government were slim.

Netanyahu's extending feelers through Hanegbi was not by chance. In view of the lack of trust between Livni and the PM, Hanegbi took on the role of go-between.

While the pending court case prevented Hanegbi from serving as a minister, he has become Kadima's responsible adult, a figure acceptable to the heads of all parties.

Tzachi Hanegbi

So it was no surprise he made history by continuing to serve as chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee while sitting as an opposition MK. The post had always been filled by a coalition member.

Hanegbi grew up in a highly ideological household, the son of Geula Cohen and Immanuel Hanegbi, commanders in the prestate Lehi, or Stern Gang, underground. As a university student, he was a leader in the opposition to the evacuation of the town of Yamit in Sinai.

He was later an adviser to then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and director of the Prime Minister's Office.

He was elected to the Knesset on the Likud list in 1988 at the age of 31. In the first Netanyahu government in the 1990s, he was health minister and then justice minister.

Hanegbi followed Ariel Sharon into Kadima. Sharon had shown higher regard for him than any other Likud minister. Until the last moment, Likudniks couldn't believe that one of the ideological symbols of the movement would leave, but Hanegbi did.

The move to Kadima exemplifies the change Hanegbi underwent from rebellious student during the evacuation of Yamit to a pragmatic and flexible politician. When the hour of decision came, it was Hanegbi who would find solutions.

This was true, for example, in 2008, when Hanegbi headed off early elections and in his confidential role as intermediary between Netanyahu and Livni after the Knesset elections.

If his perjury conviction is not found to involve moral turpitude, which would bar him from public office for a considerable period, Hanegbi could find his political career once again in the fast lane.