Daily Israel Report

One Man, Nearly 40 Knesset Appointees

One of Ariel Sharon's problems seems to be how to go about filling the long list of MKs he must appoint in the coming weeks. Newest member Shai Hermesh says Sharon doesn't have too much power.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 12/29/2005, 9:56 AM / Last Update: 12/29/2005, 12:00 PM

The party has attracted several leading political names since its inception in mid-November. However, even with those who left the Likud to join Kadima, there are not nearly enough famous names to fill out the nearly 40 Knesset seats the party appears headed to win.

Sharon himself is to appoint the party's list of Knesset candidates, giving him the unprecedented power of exclusively naming a significant portion of the Israeli legislature. In addition, Sharon is not bound by party organs - which do not yet exist in the fledgling party - and his control over his appointees in the future is expected to be very great.

A total of 20 MKs, including Sharon himself, are now members of Kadima. These include 15 who left the Likud, as well as Shimon Peres, Chaim Ramon, and Dalia Itzik of Labor, David Tal (One Nation), and Michael Nudelman (National Union).

Others who have joined Kadima include Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz, former GSS head Avi Dichter, former Shinui party bigwig Prof. Uriel Reichman, former Education Ministry Director-General Ronit Tirosh, and Kiryat Shmonah Mayor Chaim Barbivai.

The latest to do so is Jewish Agency treasurer Shai Hermesh [pictured above], who announced his decision yesterday. Labor Party members fear that with his departure, he will take many Labor supporters with him to Kadima.

In a conversation with Arutz-7 this morning, Hermesh good-humoredly attempted to dispel concern over Sharon's growing power. He made sure to emphasize his [Hermesh's] help to, and praise of, the uprooted residents of Atzmonah who are now living in the Faith City encampment in the Negev, where he served as Regional Council Chief for 15 years. Excerpts from the conversation:

A7: "What made you leave Labor and join Kadima?"

Hermesh: "It's very simple: Ever since Sharon announced the Disengagement Plan two years ago in Herzliya, the political structure in Israel has changed greatly. Once the Likud accepted the idea of a small state with a Jewish majority, as opposed to 'two banks to the Jordan' ... there's no longer a gap between my conception and Sharon's. The question for me therefore became, 'Who would be able to garner the most support and succeed in this goal?' It was clear that the answer was Sharon."

A7: "Do you not feel that Sharon has too much power? He will no longer face a hostile Central Committee, nor a group of 'rebel' MKs like in the Likud, but rather dozens of MKs that he himself has appointed."

Hermesh: "I have seen him with too little power... just weeks ago he was humiliated by his own party, and it became too much for him, so he left and started his own party."

A7: "When you met with Sharon, how did it work? You said, 'I've decided to become a Knesset Member, so here I am,' and then he said OK and told you what number you would be?"

Hermesh: "Not at all... I know him for a very long time, and I told him I want to join forces with him, that I have no demands, and I want to help him, and asked what he would like me to do... He then invited me to come with him to the Kadima Knesset faction meeting... It was not said at all that I would be an MK, but I had a feeling that I wasn't being asked to attend the faction meeting as his bodyguard..."

A7: "You don't feel that it's undemocratic for one person to single-handedly appoint 40 MKs?"

Hermesh: "It's true that he's like Raful [the late Tzomet Party head Rafael Eitan] and Tommy Lapid [head of Shinui], and it's true that there are no organs, but that is the situation at present, and in the future we will form party organs..."

A7: "Is this a democratic arrangement?"

Hermesh: "You'll have to ask the voters. Apparently they have decided that they want something different..."

A7: "Have they decided that they want a one-man rule?"

Hermesh: "There is still a democracy here - "

A7: "There have been other dictatorial regimes in history that have been voted into power democratically."

Hermesh: "I would advise you not to compare Israel to Germany, or Sharon to Hitler..."

A7: "Let's say it happens a year from now that you and several other party MKs disagree with Sharon on something, will your voice be heard?"

Hermesh: "Those who know me know that when I disagree with something, I'm not bashful about it."