Kadima Party

(April 2012)

by David Krusch

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formally resigned from the Likud Party to form a new centrist and liberal party, “Kadima,” or “Forward” in November 2005. Temporarily named “National Responsibility” (Achrayut Leumit in Hebrew) when it was initially formed, the title “Kadima” has symbolic meaning for many Israelis because it is associated with the battle-charge of army officers. Sharon may have been trying to highlight his military accomplishments before the March 2006 elections by naming the party Kadima.

Sharon started the process by asking then President Moshe Katsav if he could issue an order dissolving the Knesset. He then sent a letter to the Likud Party chairman at the time, Tzachi Hanegbi, saying that he was resigning and forming a new party. Sharon could have easily returned to power running under the Likud platform, and was well ahead of his rivals in the polls, but felt that he could no longer lead a party that had a conflicting ideology with his own. Sharon said of his risky political move:

If I had stayed in the Likud, I would have probably won in the primaries, and would have led the Likud to victory in the elections. This would have been the safest move for me personally, however it is not the way to serve the State of Israel. Staying in the Likud means wasting time on political struggles, rather than acting on behalf of the state.

At least half of the members of Likud rejected Sharon's disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank that ended Israel's 38-year presence in the area. In 2005, the party was in a leadership struggle between several of Likud's top members, including Benjamin Netanyahu, Shaul Mofaz, and Silvan Shalom. A 2006 poll suggested that Likud will lose much of its influence in the government when early elections are held in March 2006, nearly 8 months ahead of schedule. A poll published in Yediot Achronot and Ma’ariv said Sharon will most likely win a third term as prime minister, and that his new party could win between 30 and 33 of the Knesset’s 120 seats in the elections. The poll numbers may change between now and the election and, historically, new Israeli parties led by major political figures are popular when they are first formed and lose support over time.

Several Knesset members from Labor, Likud, and other parties immediately joined with Sharon's new party. These include cabinet ministers Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Meir Sheetrit, Gideon Ezra and Avraham Hirchson. Deputy ministers Ruhama Avraham, Majallie Whbee, Eli Aflalo, Marina Solodkin, Ze'ev Boim and Ya'acov Edri also joined the party, along with Likud MKs Ronnie Bar-On and Omri Sharon. Former Histadrut chairman Haim Ramon of Labor has also decided to join the party. Shimon Peres quit Labor after more than 60 years, and announced he would help Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pursue peace with the Palestinians. Peres reportedly will not join Kadima, but will receive a senior post in the government if Sharon wins reelection and will be responsible for negotiations with the Palestinians.

Sharon held a news conference in which he outlined the goals of the new party. One, he said, is to closely follow the United States-backed road map plan for peace with the Palestinians. Sharon declared that there will be no more unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank, and insisted that Palestinian terrorist groups be disarmed and dismantled. The Kadima party platform calls for “maximum security and assuring that Israel be a Jewish national home and that another state that shall arise be demilitarized, with terrorists disarmed.”

An advisor close to Sharon said of the new party, “His clear intention is to proceed with a political process with the Palestinians. The current composition of the Likud meant paralysis. He needs space and freedom and support to achieve what he wants to do.”

Sources: Leslie Susser, “In Israel, sifting the aftermath of Sharon’s political earthquake,” JTA, (November 21 & 29, 2005); Scott Wilson, “Israeli Premier Quits Party and Forms His Own,” The Washington Post, (November 22, 2005); Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Gil Hoffman and JPost staff, “Sharon gets boost to new party,” The Jerusalem Post, (November 22, 2005).