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      Mofaz Quits Likud Race, Joins Kadima

      Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz announced unabashedly this morning that he was abandoning not only his race to lead the Likud, but also the Likud itself - and is joining Sharon's Kadima party.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 12/11/2005, 10:45 AM / Last Update: 12/11/2005, 12:34 PM

      Polls have shown consistently that Mofaz would not do well in the upcoming vote for Likud Party leader, but despite this, he promised he would not leave the party.

      Likud MK Ayoub Kara said, "Mofaz is abandoning the Likud the same way he abandoned his soldiers at the battle of Joseph's Tomb. The mask has been removed from Mofaz's face, and he has been revealed as just another two-bit politician who is concerned only about himself."

      Mofaz was IDF Chief of Staff in October 2000 when, at the beginning of the Oslo War, Arabs in the Shechem region attacked IDF soldiers guarding Joseph's Tomb. The soldier Madhat Yusuf was critically wounded, but the Israeli decision-makers preferred not to use force to rescue him, but rather trusted the PA's promises - and he bled to death.

      Mofaz managed to manipulate this morning's newspaper headlines by releasing a call to Netanyahu last night to "join me in liquidating the Feiglin camp in the Likud."
      However, Israel Radio correspondent Shmulik Tal reported that it was last night that Mofaz called Ariel Sharon and informed him that he was leaving the Likud and joining Kadima.

      Mofaz's staffers originally said the decision to leave the Likud was made this morning, but Mofaz himself later admitted that he came to the decision over the course of the weekend.

      Sharon welcomed Mofaz to Kadima, and the two met this morning. Sharon did not make any specific promises, but it is understood that Mofaz will receive a high place on the Kadima list of Knesset candidates, and probably even the posts of Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister if Sharon forms the next government.

      Mofaz himself had strong criticism of Kadima just two days ago. He said, "Kadima represents various opinions that come from different directions - some Labor MKs who supported Oslo, and others whose stances are still unclear to me, and it's possible that they'll make more unilateral gestures... I don't think Kadima will show the proper determination to stand up for Israel's critical needs."

      Just yesterday, he said again he would not join up with Sharon. A few days ago, he said that the politicians who switch from party to party "show a lack of stability and a lack of leadership."

      Reactions from politicians were extreme in their criticism of Mofaz's move. Binyamin Netanyahu's office released a statement saying, "This gives new meaning to the word opportunism. His move indicates a lack of values and consistency. The Likud is loyal to its values, and will continue for many years. Kadima and all its bandwagon-jumpers will disintegrate and be forgotten." Netanyahu is the front-runner in the race for Likud Party leader.

      MK Avraham Poraz (Shinui): "I feel depressed. What he did is so degrading that I look around and wonder what it will cause the public to think about politicians in general..."

      MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) said, "Unfortunately, the wave of deception that is washing over the political framework has taken Mofaz with it - to the party that he himself defined as a left-wing party."

      MK Zahava Gal'on (Meretz): "Kadima is becoming a refugee camp for losers from all the other parties."

      Labor Party leader Amir Peretz blamed Ariel Sharon: "Sharon is shaming the entire political establishment by acquiring every politician who is for sale, without a political path or ideology. Sharon's chance collection of opportunists cannot supply any cohesive answer in social crises or politically."

      Minister Yisrael Katz, another candidate in the race for Likud Chairman: "A person who says he's remaining in the Likud, and vies for the Likud voters' votes, and then defects to another party because of a poll - [this is] a slap in the face to the integrity of politicians."

      Just this past Thursday, Yeshivat Har Bracha head Rabbi Eliezer Melamed wrote the following in the B'Sheva weekly:

      "I have long wondered about Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz. His face exudes loyalty and responsibility, and there are people who are even willing to praise his fair treatment towards them. But the facts appear to indicate a man who will do almost everything for his personal advancement. One week he says that a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza will endanger Israel, and the next week, when he sees that support for the withdrawal will improve his position in the government, he announces that it will actually strengthen Israel's security.

      "...During his term as Chief of Staff, the army began bringing female soldiers into various combat army units. It became much harder for religious soldiers to be in the army... He knew how badly this hurt the religious and traditional public, but he thought that the media would praise him... Rabbis tried to speak to him about this, but he couldn't find even one hour for this, explaining that it was because of the security issues that had piled up because of the Oslo War. But in those very days, he took part in a day-long seminar dealing with the new IDF challenge - the integration of girls in the combat units..."