Wednesday, December 23, 2009

War in Kadima over Livni's lack of leadership; MK Aflalo: "You took Kadima too far left and betrayed me".

(Mazal Mualem-Haaretz). The rift at the top of Kadima erupted into full-scale war on Wednesday when the party's number-two, MK Shaul Mofaz, lashed out at chairwoman Tzipi Livni, saying it was her lack of leadership that has reportedly led 14 of Kadima's 27 MKs to start negotiations with Likud about moving to that party.

"This means this group of MKs doesn't acknowledge Livni's leadership, and they have doubts about her ability to lead in general," a Mofaz associate quoted him as saying. "The fact that not a year has passed since the election and people are already looking to flee Kadima is a clear challenge to her leadership and [indicates] that they don't see her as a future leader."

Wednesday night, MK Eli Aflalo became the first Kadima MK to officially announce that he intended to leave Kadima, though he has yet to decide whether to join Likud or start his own faction. "You took Kadima too far left and betrayed me; I don't believe you anymore," Channel 1 television quoted him as saying.

In conversations with associates Mofaz blamed the threatened desertions on Livni's mistakes - first and foremost her failure to form a new government last year after Ehud Olmert's resignation as prime minister and her subsequent election to replace him as party leader, and then her refusal to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government after the elections, for what Mofaz termed personal reasons.

But publicly he has kept silent, not wanting to be seen as the one who split the party.

Mofaz believes these latest developments will necessitate moving up the Kadima primary to sometime next year. When he tried to push up the primary date a few months ago, he failed in part because this would require changing the party's bylaws, which call for the primary to be held three months before a general election. Changing the bylaws is difficult, because they give great power to the party chair. Today, however, Moaz believes the idea will enjoy such sweeping support among Kadima activists and MKs that the change will be possible.

But Livni insisted to her associates Wednesday that the new developments are no grounds for moving up the primary.

Kadima's governing council will meet Thursday to discuss the threatened desertions, and the meeting is expected to be stormy. Mofaz does not intend to speak, but he has made his views clear to party members.

Meanwhile, Mofaz has been trying to prevent any desertions. In the past few days he has met with almost every Kadima MK rumored to be talking with Likud. Some denied it; others said they were considering it.

Mofaz is particularly anxious because some of those who are reportedly talking with Likud are his supporters - people he views as the basis of a future leadership bid.

But Mofaz was not the only one attacking Livni on Wednesday. A former Kadima minister, for instance, also blamed her for the situation, saying she had ignored her fellow MKs and run the party undemocratically, and now, her colleagues are taking revenge.

Responding to such criticisms, Livni told associates, "I'm aware of my flaws and am working to correct them." She has met with many Kadima MKs over the past few days and told them she understands that she needs to consult her party colleagues more, and this is an opportunity for change.