Despite Sunday evening headlines announcing a split in Kadima that would see a third of its members defect to the Likud, on Monday morning the deal sewn together by former MK Tzachi Hanegbi came apart at the seams.
Less than a week after Kadima voted to leave the governing coalition, a group of legislators led by Hanegbi had been ready to split off from Kadima to rejoin Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. In exchange for their rejoining the coalition, the prime minister had reportedly offered up ministerial, deputy ministerial and committee chair posts, so long as the returning MKs promised to support his party’s proposed draft legislation and the 2013 budget.
On Monday morning, however, only four Kadima MKs confirmed their departure — Avraham Duan, Arie Bibi, Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich and Otniel Schneller – not enough for the move to go through since under Knesset rules seven MKs were required. The breakaway failed, in part, because Netanyahu was not prepared to guarantee high spots for the defecting Kadima MKs on the Likud slate for the next Knesset.
Hanegbi is not an MK and is barred from serving in the Knesset for five more years after he was convicted in 2010 of acts involving moral turpitude for giving false testimony to the Central Elections Committee.
Despite the failure of the breakaway move, Hanegbi was still set to rejoin the Likud, however.
Hanegbi, for his recruitment efforts, had been set to receive the post of Home Front Defense Minister. MK Duan was offered the post of deputy welfare and social services minister. MK Bibi was offered a promotion to deputy internal security minister and MK Shamalov-Berkovich was offered the chance to serve as deputy minister of communications.
Schneller, former head of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, denied he was promised a Knesset committee chairman position 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 the chairmanship of the Knesset Economics Committee, but changed his mind Monday morning. “I didn’t ask for a post and wasn’t offered one,” Edery told Ynet.
MK Nino Abesadze was initially said to be leaving Kadima to form an independent party of her own or to join the Labor Party, but later said she would remain where she was.
Overnight, other names were raised as possible defectors, but by Monday morning, the rebels were plainly undermanned.
Former IDF spokesman MK Nachman Shai denied that he was a potential breakaway, 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 early Monday 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 promises of ministerial appointments with a harsh statement, calling them “corrupt political bribery.”
“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 called a press conference for noon on Monday.
Israel’s second-largest political coalition in history disintegrated last week a mere 70 days after its formation, as Mofaz announced his party’s break from the Likud-led government over the issue of universal enlistment to the IDF.
Netanyahu wanted Kadima MKs to jump ship, in part, 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.
“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,” one 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.
Haaretz reported Monday that Kadima officials are working to depose Mofaz from his role as party head, citing the outgoing vice prime minister’s weak poll numbers.
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.