Minister without portfolio and Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz will have his first crack at leading the country next week, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu travels to the Czech Republic. Netanyahu, who will be accompanied by several ministers, will meet with Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas and President Vaclav Klaus. The leaders will discuss security, trade, and other issues.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is still dealing with the fallout from his deal with Mofaz, which brought the Kadima head, and the party's 31 Knesset seats, into the government. Likud ministers quoted in media reports called the way Netanyahu has been dealing with them “farcical,” after the Prime Minister admitted that several Kadima MKs would be appointed as ministers, despite previous claims by Netanyahu that they would not. According to reports, Kadima will receive three ministries. The coalition agreement presented Wednesday lists only Mofaz as receiving a ministerial position.
Far more serious, said some Likud officials, was the “loss of public trust” the Likud has experienced over the past several days. One senior minister was quoted as saying that after the Prime Minister taking great pains to differentiate himself from Kadima during his administration, it would be very difficult to explain to voters how the government was now willing to adopt Kadima's views on a wide range of controversial issues. “If, for example, we had been planning to do something about Givat Ha'Ulpana, it will be a lot more difficult to find a solution that will be acceptable to everyone in the coalition,” the minister said. While the coalition, with 94 members, has never been more stable, the minister said that differentiating the Likud from Kadima in the next election would be much more difficult now.
There is dissent within Kadima as well. Former Kadima head Tsipi Livni, claiming that she is speaking for a number of party MKs, slammed the deal that brought her party into the coalition. “The public deserves better politics,” Livni said. According to media reports Thursday, those Kadima MKs who agree with Livni are examining ways to leave the party, and the coalition, while remaining in the Knesset. At least half a dozen Kadima MKs are said to want to leave the coalition and return to the opposition, since they still had significant policy differences with the Likud, and did not wished to become identified with the Likud-dominated government.
Ironically, those MKs may be able to take advantage of a law that had been passed several years ago that had been dubbed the “Mofaz law,” which allowed a group of seven MKs led by the former Likud minister and current Kadima head to withdraw from the Likud and retain their seats, taking their reelection funding with them. That same law is still on the books, and could be used by MKs seeking to withdraw from Kadima under similar circumstances, analysts said.