Israel’s Kadima Party could split after Netanyahu deal / Lawmakers say they will give new unity government weeks to deliver on promises (WASHINGTON TIMES) By Ben Birnbaum 05/11/12)
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Israel’s Kadima party could lose a large breakaway faction of
lawmakers following its leader’s controversial decision to join the
current Israeli government, The Washington Times has learned.
The Israeli political scene was turned on its head Tuesday, when
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a deal with new
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz to bring the large centrist party into his
coalition, which is currently dominated by his Likud Party and other
The pact nullified Mr. Netanyahu’s call just two days earlier for
early elections and all but ensured that his government would serve
until October 2013, when its term expires.
But in a phone interview Thursday morning, a day after the Knesset
approved the accord between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Mofaz, Kadima
lawmaker Shlomo Molla said that “more than seven” of his party’s 28
Knesset members (MKs) were prepared to break away from the party if
there is not a “dramatic change” in the current government’s
policies “before the end of June.”
Another Kadima MK, Yoel Hasson, told The Times that he and other
Kadima MKs were eying July 31 as the moment of truth for the new
unity government. On that day, Israel’s Tal Law — which exempts ultra-
Orthodox Jews from the nation’s mandatory military-service laws — is
set to expire.
Under his deal with Mr. Mofaz, Mr. Netanyahu had pledged to replace
the Tal Law with a bill that would require some form of national
service from all Israelis, including the ultra-Orthodox and the
country’s Arab minority.
“If this reform is going to happen with the Tal Law,” Mr. Hasson
said, “it’s a revolution, and it’s something that everyone is going
to give Kadima credit for because without Kadima, it would never
happen.” Mr. Hasson also said Kadima MKs wanted the new government to
pursue electoral reform and a new course in the stalled peace process
with the Palestinians.
Should Mr. Netanyahu not deliver on these fronts, Mr. Hasson said
that he and like-minded Kadima MKs would seek a majority within the
party to leave the coalition “immediately.” Were they to fail to get
a majority, he said, “then all options are open.” Mr. Hasson
emphasized that he hoped the party would not be forced to
split. “Dividing Kadima is the last option,” he said.
Under Israeli election laws, Knesset members comprising at least a
third of their party are able to form breakaway factions. The law
enabled Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and four other MKs to
secede from the thirteen-member Labor Party last January and remain
in the government as the other Labor MKs left.
The laws, however, were amended at the behest of Mr. Netanyahu in
2009 to allow any seven lawmakers — even if they fell short of a
third of their party — to form a breakaway faction. Ironically, the
new law — then dubbed “the Mofaz Law” — was part of an unsuccessful
plot to entice Mr. Mofaz, then serving unhappily with six loyal
Kadima lawmakers under party leader Tzipi Livni, into leaving Kadima
and joining Mr. Netanyahu’s government.
Mr. Mofaz, who unseated Ms. Livni in March, had pledged not to join
Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, repeatedly calling the premier a liar, but
changed course after polls showed Kadima shrinking from its current
28 mandates to as few as nine were elections to be held on September
4, as Mr. Netanyahu had called for on Sunday.
While a seven-member Kadima breakaway would still leave Mr. Netanyahu
with an unassailable 87-lawmaker coalition in the 120-member Knesset,
it would be a huge blow to Kadima and to Mr. Mofaz.
Asked whether a breakaway faction would consider merging with the
left-leaning Labor Party, now Israel’s largest opposition bloc, Mr.
Molla used the same line as Mr. Hasson: “all options are open.”
The comments from Messrs. Molla and Hasson came Tuesday morning, a
day after former minister Haim Ramon — one of Kadima’s founders —
announced he was leaving the party, saying it had “gone back to being
Kadima was formed in late 2005 by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon, a longtime Likud stalwart who bolted his party due to
internal opposition to his uprooting of Jewish settlements in the
Though Mr. Sharon suffered a stroke within months of Kadima’s
creation, the party won the most seats in the 2006 elections under
Mr. Sharon’s deputy Ehud Olmert, who formed a government that lasted
until 2009. While Ms. Livni’s Kadima won one more seat than Mr.
Netanyahu’s Likud in Israel’s 2009 elections, she was unable to form
a governing coalition due to the relative weakness of other center-
left parties. (© 2012 The Washington Times, LLC. 05/11/12)
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