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Cablegate: Kadima's Internal Squabbles Continue

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PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #0137/01 0221247
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221247Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5071
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 000137

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV IS
SUBJECT: KADIMA'S INTERNAL SQUABBLES CONTINUE

REF: 09 TEL AVIV 02813

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The Kadima party's leadership wrangling
continued in mid-January, with little hope for near-term
resolution. Kadima members met on January 21 to discuss an
effort by former Defense Minister and Kadima
second-in-command Shaul Mofaz to move leadership primaries up
to mid-2010. Though the meeting did not conclude with any
decisions, camps were clearly split between those supporting
party Chairman Tzipi Livni's call to hold off on a primary
and those agitating for a change. Earlier this month, Mofaz
led a rally of party activists who called on Livni to agree
to advance the vote, and he ratcheted up his rhetorical
campaign against Livni's leadership as well. The problem in
Kadima is not just with the party primary; as many as 17
Knesset Members (MKs) are reported to be generally
dissatisfied with the party and are looking for either new
leadership or a new party altogether. These MKs are being
pursued by Livni and Mofaz, but also by Prime Minister
Netanyahu, who sees this as a chance to either bring
additional MKs to his party or coalition, or further weaken
his chief competitor. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On January 21 the party's House Committee met to
discuss whether to move up Kadima's leadership primary,
presently scheduled for November 2013. The meeting was
prompted by Mofaz, who is aggressively attempting to unseat
Livni as chairman of the party. No decisions were taken,
however, because the meeting was unexpectedly cut short when
committee head and Kadima MK Tzachi HaNegbi realized the
supposedly private proceedings were being transcribed
simultaneously on the Internet. Nonetheless, Mofaz was able
to lay out his request that Kadima's constitution be changed
to require leadership primaries within 16 months following an
election in which Kadima was not the head of the government.
If instituted and applied immediately, that would require a
primary vote by June 2010. During the debate, MK Otniel
Schneller called for primaries in July, while MK Avi Dichter,
who is widely expected to run in the leadership primary,
proposed a vote between June and October. Livni was not
present at the debate, having earlier in public comments
rejected the notion that primaries would be moved up. She
let her surrogates - primarily former MK and current Kadima
Council chairman Haim Ramon - state the case opposing any
changes.

3. (SBU) The meeting followed a rally Mofaz held near his
home on January 14 in which 250 party activists joined his
call for a party leadership primary to take place within the
next few months. In addition to Mofaz, Kadima MKs Eli
Aflalo, Robert Tibayev, Arieh Bibi, and Schneller attended
the event. Mofaz during the rally continued with his open
attacks on Livni, faulting her for not being able to form a
government following former Prime Minister Olmert's
resignation in the fall of 2008, and for her decision to not
join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government early
last year. Mofaz further has accused Livni of hiding behind
the party constitution and bylaws, which give the chairman
extensive control over the party. Dichter, in an interview
around the same time, also announced his support for
primaries in 2010, though he most likely would complicate
Mofaz's campaign, as his strong security credentials probably
would take away votes from Mofaz. Livni's aides dismissed
the Mofaz rally as insignificant and stressed that Livni
would be open to holding leadership primaries a year before
the next scheduled election.

4. (SBU) The party leadership meeting and Mofaz rally
represent the latest turmoil in a party that has the largest
number of seats in the Knesset, yet sits in the opposition
and lacks a clear identity. Running parallel to the
leadership struggle is general dissatisfaction either with
Livni's leadership, being in the opposition, or both among a
number of Kadima MKs. An aide to Mofaz told poloff that as
many as 17 Kadima MKs are considering leaving the party for
reasons ranging from ideology (i.e. a concern that Livni has
pulled the party too far to the left) to a desire for a
ministerial portfolio. The aide would not name the members,
but Knesset insiders say that in addition to the MKs who
attended the Mofaz event, MKs Ze'ev Boim, Ruhama Avraham,
Orit Zuaretz, Yulia Berkovich, Ronit Tirosh, Shai Hermesh,
and Yaakov Edri are dissatisfied with the current state of
the party. These same insiders list MKs Ze'ev Bielski,
Nachman Shai, Shlomo Molla, Yohanan Plesner, Yoel Hasson, and
Tzachi HaNegbi as strong backers of a Livni-led Kadima.

5. (SBU) The disaffected Kadima MKs are being pressed or
courted from three sides. Mofaz wants them to remain in the
party for at least a few months so that he can work out a
deal for early party primaries, which he expects to win.
Mofaz's goal is to become prime minister - not just head of

TEL AVIV 00000137 002 OF 002


Kadima - and his best hope remains with leading the
center-right party and its full slate of MKs. For many of
the same reasons, Kadima Chairman Livni is working to keep
these wayward members in the party and on her side.
According to Knesset staffers, Livni is relying on former MK
and Deputy Prime Minister Ramon, who remains influential in
Kadima politics, and HaNegbi to keep the party unified.
Prime Minister Netanyahu represents the third source of
pressure on Kadima rank-and-file.

6. (SBU) Netanyahu, via political advisor Shalom Shlomo,
reportedly has conducted negotiations with a number of Kadima
MKs (reftel), offering specific positions as enticements.
Netanyahu, naturally, is keen to peel off some Kadima members
and add them to his coalition as insurance should senior
coalition member Yisrael Beitenu leave the government at some
point. Many Israeli political observers also believe
Netanyahu will need more centrist members of his coalition in
the event that peace negotiations resume. Netanyahu also
probably views the efforts to lure Kadima MKs as helpful
toward sowing further discord in that party, thus weakening
the Likud's chief competitor.
CUNNINGHAM

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