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Cablegate: Mofaz and Livni Do Battle Ahead of "Decisive"

VZCZCXRO3978
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #0338 0470550
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 160550Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5462
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 000338

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV IS
SUBJECT: MOFAZ AND LIVNI DO BATTLE AHEAD OF "DECISIVE"
PARTY MEETING LATER THIS MONTH

REF: A. TEL AVIV 00137
B. 09 TEL AVIV 02813

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Kadima infighting continues ahead of the
Kadima Council meeting scheduled for February 24 that is to
consider a proposal to move party leadership primaries up
from the scheduled date of 2013 to some time in 2010. Former
Defense Minister and party number two Shaul Mofaz reportedly
has threatened to split the party, with all the personal
political risks that entails for him. Kadima Chairman Tzipi
Livni's handling of the tensions with Mofaz has again
highlighted criticisms of her leadership and decisiveness.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) Israeli journalists the second week of February
highlighted the continuing escalation in tensions between
Mofaz and Livni. Yediot Aharonoth, the leading Israeli
daily, reported on February 11 that Mofaz had given Livni an
ultimatum to make an unequivocal decision by the end of the
month whether or not to move up the primary date. Mofaz
previously had declared he had no intention of splitting the
party, as his preference was to lead it into the next
election and become prime minister. Mofaz's associates have
been tight-lipped about their planning, so it is difficult to
tell whether his threats to leave the party are genuine or
just further posturing. A decision to leave the party,
though, would be a serious gamble for Mofaz because while he
does not enjoy being a small fish in the big pond that is
Kadima, his long-term political fortunes probably would not
rise by being the big fish in the small pond that would be a
break-away faction.

3. (SBU) The lingering battle is not helping Livni
politically, as it reinforces doubts that she can lead
effectively. Not only does she appear to be struggling to
keep the rest of the party unified, but her unwillingness to
provide a final response to the primary election question
provides yet another indication that Livni has difficulties
acting decisively. Her associates continue to leak reports
to the press that she has solid backing within the party to
both withstand an effort to bring forward the vote and
prevail in the primary whenever it is held. They also note
that a Mofaz departure would rid the party of some of its
more divisive elements. This begs the question, then, why
Livni has not chosen to call Mofaz's bluff and either have
the vote or reject his proposal outright and risk him leaving
the party.

4. (SBU) Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to observe from
the sidelines, occasionally having an emissary dangle new
offers to entice Mofaz and other erstwhile Kadima member to
leave that party, according to Israeli press reports. He
also may entice wavering Kadima members with a peace process
strategy that they feel comfortable with. One thing
Netanyahu will have difficulty offering are reserved slots on
the Likud slate in the next election for any Kadima
defectors. Newly elected and generally hard-line Likud MKs
have spoken out against such a move, citing concerns about
the "left wing" orientation of Kadima MKs. More likely,
however, these new MKs know that their prospects for getting
elected to the next Knesset would decline if senior Kadima
MKs made the switch to Likud.
Cunningham

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