Less than a week after Kadima voted to leave the governing coalition, a group of legislators led by former MK Tzachi Hanegbi is defecting from the party and hoping to rejoin Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. So far only five Kadima MKs have formally announced their departure. Seven MKs, a third of the party’s MKs, must quit to ratify a party split under Knesset rules.
In exchange for their rejoining the coalition, the prime minister has offered up ministerial, deputy ministerial and committee chair posts, so long as the returning MKs promise to support his party’s proposed draft legislation and the 2013 budget.
Hanegbi, for his recruitment efforts, will reportedly receive the post of Home Front Defense Minister. Hanegbi cannot serve in the Knesset for several years after he was convicted in 2010 of acts involving moral turpitude after giving false testimony to the Central Elections Committee.
During a busy night of political negotiations Sunday, Hanegbi, together with coalition chairman Zeev Elkin, managed to secure posts for six defecting MKs. Kadima MK Avraham Duan was offered the post of deputy welfare social services minister. MK Arie Bibi was offered a promotion to deputy internal security minister and MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich was offered to serve as deputy minister of communications. Former Yesha Council head Otniel Schneller denied he was promised to chair a Knesset Committee in exchange for leaving Kadima. “As difficult as it is to believe, the move is ideologically driven,” he told Army Radio.
MK Jacob Edery had initially agreed to join the defectors after he was offered to chair the Knesset Economics Committee, but changed his mind Monday morning, Maariv reported.
MK Nino Abesadze was said to be leaving Kadima to form an independent party of her own or to join the Labor Party. She said she was leaving for ideological reasons and would not accept a government post.
Over night, other names were raised as the possible seventh MK to leave and enable the deal to go through, but on Sunday morning there was no confirmation that a seventh had been found.
Former IDF spokesman MK Nachman Shai denied that he was the seventh MK, despite reports that he was promised a ministerial post. Similar denials were issued by MKs Avi Dichter and Zeev Bielski.
MK Meir Sheetrit told Army Radio that he believed that the split would not take place after all. “I don’t believe they have the necessary seven names and I’m not even sure that those who have been reported as leaving will really quit. The chances of the move falling apart are good.”
Kadima responded to the ministerial appointments harshly, calling them “corrupt political bribery” in a statement.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to buy votes to pass his shameful universal draft law via trivial positions in his bloated government,” the party stated.
Party chairman Shaul Mofaz said that Kadima was “on a new path,” and that the move “spells the end of the Netanyahu government.”
Israel’s second-largest political coalition in history disintegrated last week a mere 70 days after its formation, as Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz announced his party’s break from the Likud-led government over the issue of universal enlistment to the IDF.
Netanyahu presumably wants Kadima MKs to jump ship in order to get the necessary number of votes in the Knesset to pass his party’s conscription bill, currently being worked on by Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon. That proposed legislation would grant ultra-Orthodox Jews the right to defer service until the age of 26.
An unnamed Knesset member told Ynet that the split was “a realistic scenario.”
“Mofaz made many mistakes since being elected. The final straw was his conduct around the Plesner committee and his failure to appoint experienced politicians on behalf of Kadima to conduct the negotiations with the Likud,” the legislator said, referring to Kadima’s attempt to push through its own universal draft legislation, which was a prerequisite for the party joining Netanyahu’s coalition in May.
“The real problem of Kadima is the factional splits, which are manifold and acute,” added the Knesset member.
Likud MK Danny Danon expressed opposition to the move. “The Likud is not a political dumpster. We will not allow any posts to be promised to runaways from a sinking ship,” said Danon.
Kadima was formed by former prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2005 by gathering together members of the Likud and Labor parties with the purpose of pushing the Gaza disengagement through the Knesset.
The party took 28 Knesset seats in the last election in 2009, but polls show it would drop to the low teens, at best, were elections held now.