Mofaz: We will support Netanyahu

Kadima leader, who zigzagged between coalition and opposition, pledges to respect the people’s choice, cooperate with Lapid

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Shaul Mofaz at a Jerusalem press conference in January 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)
Shaul Mofaz at a Jerusalem press conference in January 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

Kadima will support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he begins to form a coalition, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz said Saturday, stressing that his party had pledged to respect the people’s democratic choice.

Mofaz, who won two seats in last month’s elections after his party straddled the electoral threshold for hours, told Channel 2 that he would respect the voters’ decision to grant Netanyahu and his party 31 seats.

“We can’t argue with the voters,” he said.

Kadima, which was founded by former prime minister Ariel Sharon as a breakaway from the Likud in 2005 following the disengagement from Gaza, won a high number of seats in the 2006 and 2009 elections (28 seats in the outgoing Knesset) — a record number for a centrist party.

In 2012, Mofaz beat Tzipi Livni in the leadership election of the party, becoming its chairman. Livni and other MKs left Kadima later that year to form Hatnua, a new political movement. Livni’s party won six seats in last month’s elections; Mofaz, left behind, won two.

“Yes, we made mistakes,” he told Channel 2. “The campaign was difficult, but from now on we have to evolve.”

Mofaz said that his party’s views on social and political issues were “very clear,” adding that he would support “reasonable and moderate steps” to resolve the tension between Israel and Iran and other conflicts “before resorting to a military operation.”

He said his party would be valuable coalition members, as they had sat in the coalition before — unlike Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, a newcomer to politics who won a whopping 19 seats in the elections. However, despite Lapid’s inexperience, Mofaz said he looked forward to cooperating with him — especially on the issue of equality in national service.

“As a man who served in the defense establishment for 40 years, I cannot ignore this issue,” said Mofaz, a former defense minister and IDF chief of General Staff. “If the Israeli Defense Forces become the Israeli Minority Forces, it will be very dangerous,” he added, stressing that every citizen should serve the state in some way.

In the aftermath of the elections, Mofaz had called on Netanyahu to form a centrist government, saying Lapid’s electoral triumph constituted an opportunity to “represent the banner of the sane center.”

Kadima, the largest party of the outgoing Knesset, almost dropped off the political map altogether in this election. It managed to squeeze over the electoral threshold after the final 240,000 votes — cast by soldiers, prisoners and diplomats — were counted, and finished with 2.09 percent of the vote, ensuring Knesset seats for Mofaz and MK Israel Hasson.

Philip Podolsky contributed to this report.

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