The Likud’s efforts to divide the party that caused the Likud’s own division four years ago appear to be successful.
Though most of the main players in the anticipated political shake-up are publicly denying it, it appears that seven Kadima MKs – the minimum necessary for an official breakaway from the party – are strongly considering splitting off, forming their own faction, and then joining the Likud in one way or another.
Party leader Tzipi Livni, who is also leads the Opposition in the Knesset, has met with some of the MKs who are said to be interested in leaving. It is not known how her efforts to convince them to remain in the party were received.
Livni Jabs at Netanyahu
Livni’s public response was this: “While the public believes that Netanyahu is busy every minute with the Shalit affair and his difficult deliberations, it turns out the he feels that there are things that are even more important to him. The Opposition has acted with its eye on the common good, while Netanyahu is the first prime minister to deal obsessively with the Opposition instead of affairs of state.”
The Livni-led Opposition in fact withdrew a proposed no-confidence motion in the government this week because of the tense, ongoing negotiations for the exchange of hundreds of terrorists for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.
Among the Kadima MKs mentioned as possible Kadima breakaways are Otniel Schneller, Ruhama Avraham-Belila, Yaakov Edri, Zev Boim, Eli Aflalo, Marina Solodkin. MK Schneller said recently, “The issue of joining the Likud is complex and not simple.”
Others, such as former Likudniks Belila-Avraham and Edri, have denied the story more strenuously. The former said that Netanyahu would have an easier time getting all of Kadima to join the government than just parts thereof.
A Matter of Time
Despite this, many in the political establishment say that the deal has basically been concluded and that it is just a matter of time before it happens. Netanyahu has apparently offered ministerial portfolios to three of the seven, deputy minister-ships to another three, and the head of a Knesset committee to the last one.
In addition, Netanyahu is promising that he will ensure their political future within the Likud – though it is obvious that the results of Central Committee votes for positions on future lists of Likud Knesset candidates cannot be guaranteed.
How Many are Needed?
In order to form an official breakaway faction, at least a third of the party’s MKs. but not more than seven, are required to split off from Kadima, which currently has 28 MKs, one more than the Likud. In the case of Labor, where talk of a split has also been rampant, only five of its 13 MKs - more than one third - are necessary for a breakway, two less than needed in Kadima.
Kadima was formed in late 2005 by then-Likud leader Ariel Sharon after he faced strong internal party opposition over his Disengagement/expulsion from Gush Katif and northern Samaria. Most of Kadima's legislators were Likud party MKs, and their departure led the Likud to drop from 29 Knesset seats to 12 in the 2006 election.
It is therefore clear that the Likud would find sweet political revenge if it succeeds in splitting Kadima.