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Likud Eyeing 'Unity' with Kadima Defectors

The Likud might be able to draw Kadima defectors, giving it a stronger presence in the Knesset without a unity agreement that Livni has rejected.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 3/1/2009, 8:25 PM / Last Update: 3/2/2009, 6:00 AM

Israel News Photo: Flash 90

Senior Likud Knesset Member Silvan Shalom told Reuters that several Kadima MKs might join the Likud, effectively giving Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu a partial unity government while weakening Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.

“Maybe they could find ways to split the party,” said MK Shalom, referring to Kadima MKs who fled the Likud in 2005 to follow then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s new party. Sharon founded Kadima in the face of Likud legislators who rebelled against his government's removal of almost 9,000 Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria in 2005, to remain true to the party's founding principles.

One prime candidate for defection is Sha'ul Mofaz, who was Sharon’s defense minster and who has gone head-to-head against Livni’s decision to reject a unity government and sit in the Opposition. Most Kadima Cabinet ministers have publicly sided with Livni, but hawkish MKs may be tempted by offers of cabinet or Knesset committee posts to switch sides, as they did when leaving the Likud in 2005.

MK Shalom, who was Foreign Minister in the Likud-led Sharon government but remained in the Likud party rather than following Sharon to the new Kadima party, also told Reuters that no commitment can be made to a “two-state solution” without knowing what it involves.

“We need the next government to come with an approach that will enable us and the Palestinians ... to put every idea on the table,” Shalom told Reuters in an interview. “But I don't see a way now to announce in advance that the final outcome will be an independent Palestinian state. That's something that should be discussed.”

His comments came on the eve of the first official visit of United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is touting the proposal that a yet-undefined new Arab state headed by the Palestinian Authority be created alongside Israel.

The PA has demanded that the new country include all of the land restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967, including the Temple Mount, all of Jerusalem's Old City and some Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Pisgat Zev, Ramot and Gilo.

Former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last year established a major change in American policy by referring to the outlying Jerusalem neighborhoods as “settlements” equating them with Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

Close to 600,000 Jewish Israelis live in Judea and Samaria including the eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods.