Shaul Mofaz’s victory over Tzipi Livni in Kadima’s leadership race was not surprising to most political insiders, though few predicted the landslide 61.7% to 37.2% victory.
Momentum, a key political element in any election, was clearly on Mofaz’s side. Following MK Avi Dichter’s decision to withdraw from the primary and endorse Mofaz, the election became the two-person race Mofaz desired. Some of Livni’s closest political allies saw the writing on the wall earlier in the process and moved to Mofaz’s camp two months before the vote. The final straw was Faction Chairwoman Dalia Itzik’s decision to support Mofaz, giving him a clear advantage with Kadima’s 28 MKs, 15-13.
The fate of the remainder of Livni’s camp is up in the air. Livni’s closest allies have stressed throughout the process that Livni will go home if she loses. Last night she lost but has yet to announce her resignation, saying only that she will spend the next few days contemplating her political future.
In the last two weeks before the election, rumors spread that Livni has the additional six MKs needed to break off from Kadima and form her own party. Livni has kept silent on these rumors. MK Schneller gave an interview to Israel National News in which he charged that Livni would join Labor after she broke away with her handful of MKs.
Although Livni has relied on former MK heavyweights such as Tzachi Hanegbi, Haim Ramon and Omri Sharon, six of the current MKs supporting her are rookie MKs, many of whom have little name recognition. With Kadima slipping in the polls, it is no coincidence that these backbench Kadima MKs are pushing Livni behind the scenes to create a new political home.
Livni has always argued that she is more popular in the general public than she is with Kadima’s rank and file. Many polls over the last three years support that assertion. Livni could argue that Mofaz was elected leader of Israel’s largest political party with a mere 23,987 votes, a far cry from the 758,032 votes Kadima gathered in the 2009 election. Livni may decide to use this logic to split from Kadima, and stress that Mofaz only has the support of around 3% of Kadima voters.
Livni must decide on her first step. If she comes up short on the number of MKs needed to break away or if she decides against a split, she will most likely resign rather than stay on under Mofaz’s leadership. Whether or not Livni leaves, Kadima will break into two camps- those who will support Mofaz and those who will try to find another political home. If Livni departs, a leader of the anti-Mofaz camp will emerge, and the group of Kadima MKs he/she leads will likely act as rebellious MKs until they are permitted to leave.
With so many possibilities, only one thing is for certain – Kadima’s internal struggles are far from over.