Tzachi Hanegbi announced on Monday that he was leaving the Kadima party for the Likud, where he began his political career nearly 25 years ago, citing the “blatant examples of partisan interests” that guided Kadima in its decision to bolt the coalition.
“Unfortunately, the Kadima leadership today no longer represents my own views,” Hanegbi said on his Facebook page. “Therefore, I have accepted the offer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to return to the ranks of the Likud.”
Earlier on Monday, the former MK’s attempts to orchestrate a mass defection of Kadima parliamentarians to the Likud fell through after only four party members were ready to jump ship, three fewer than the minimum of seven required in order to splinter from an existing Knesset faction.
Hanegbi cited the impasse over the universal draft bill, which was at the heart of Shaul Mofaz’s decision to take Kadima out of the coalition last week, as the issue that finalized his decision, calling it an example of the “blatant partisan interests” at play. Kadima joined the coalition under the condition that a replacement to the Tal Law would be established. The law, which was ruled as unconstitutional in February by the Supreme Court, allows ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students to defer military service until the age of 28, by which point many of them no longer qualify for IDF conscription.
Hanegbi said that he supported the conscription of the ultra-Orthodox, but sided with Likud on the issue of personal sanctions against draft-evaders — one of the points on which Kadima was unwilling to compromise.
Without an acceptable alternative to the Tal Law, which expires on August 1, Hanegbi said, the country would be obligated to conscript thousands of ultra-Orthodox by force.
“Israeli society needs unity and an integration of forces, not a deepening of the rift,” he said. “It needs [citizens to shoulder an] equal share of the burden out of solidarity rather than coercion. The army needs soldiers with motivation…not thousands of deserters who will spend their service in a military prison.”
In 2005, Hanegbi followed then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, who splintered from Likud to form Kadima. In 2010, Hanegbi was convicted of perjury and barred from serving as an MK. In was unclear whether Hanegbi was still slated to serve in the Netanyahu cabinet as home front defense minister instead of Matan Vilnai, Israel’s next ambassador in China.
Hanegbi said that he had long been in favor of a Likud-Kadima unity government, and that when Mofaz and Netanyahu joined forces, “I believed with all my heart that the leaders of the Zionist majority would work together on the most crucial decisions placed before us in a long time.”
“I believe that government stability is vital, and not only regarding the question of equality of burden,” Hanegbi wrote on Monday. “The current government must deal with the impending collapse of the Assad regime in Syria; the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, with international terrorist attacks sponsored by Iran and Hezbollah; and above all…the Iranian nuclear issue.”
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