MK Yariv Levin
MK Yariv Levin Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Knesset's Legal Advisor said Tuesday that in his legal opinion, there is no justification for forcing four Knesset members out of the Kadima faction because they tried to split off from the party and join the ruling coalition. He said that splitting off from a faction is a legitimate parliamentary move.

The advisor, Eyal Yinon, spoke at a session of the Knesset's House Committee, which was convened at the request of Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz. Mofaz wants to eject the MKs from the Kadima faction because they negotiated with the coalition in a bid to join it – a bid that failed when the requisite number of seven defectors was not reached.

The session was chaired by House Committee chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud).

The committee decided not to approve Mofaz's request and issued a statement scolding him for failing to show up to the session that he himself had initiated.

The four MKs Mofaz wants kicked out of Kadima are Avi Duan, Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich, Aryeh Bibi and Otniel Schneller, all of whom were present at the session and defended themselves with great vigor. MK Schneller that the law that stipulates that seven MKs are enough for splitting off from a party was called the "Mofaz Law" because it was concocted in order to enable Mofaz to split off from Kadima.

MK Duan, who was Shaul Mofaz's chief of staff during the Kadima primaries, said that he was a participant and witness in numerous discussions in which Mofaz planned to defect from the party, when it was headed by Tzipi Livni. MK Shamalov-Berkovich noted that she entered Kadima after a career in print and broadcast media, but did not leave another party in order to do so, unlike many of Kadima's founders, who split off from Likud.

Coalition Chairman Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) asked the MKs representing Kadima in the session to admit publicly that they, too, were involved in past attempts to split factions. He threatened to publish damning evidence in this respect: "In the previous Knesset, I was complicit in several attempts to split off from Olmert," he said, "and I give my commitment that if any of the speakers should 'forget' things that have not yet been made public, I will complete his statement, including things that have not been made public."