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Kadima Party: History & Overview

Kadima (meaning "forward" in Hebrew) is a centrist liberal political party in Israel founded by Ariel Sharon in 2005.

In November 2005, after a rift was formed in the Likud Party following the August 2005 unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formally resigned from Likud and formed the new centrist party, Kadima. Temporarily named “National Responsibility” (Achrayut Leumit in Hebrew) when it was initially formed, Sharon officially entered the party as Kadima against the wishes of a number of his advisors.  While no answer was given, its possible Sharon named the party kadima - a word closely associated by Israelis with the battle-charge call of army officers - in order to highlight his vast military accomplishments to sway that sector of the public.

Sharon started the process of forming Kadima by asking then-President Moshe Katsav to issue an order dissolving the Knesset. Sharon followed that with a letter to the Likud chairman, Tzachi Hanegbi, saying that he was resigning and forming a new party. Sharon could have easily returned to the prime ministership 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.

For context, at least half of the Likud members rejected Sharon's disengagement plan and the summer of 2005 the party was thrown into a leadership struggle between several top members, including former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former IDF Chief-of-Staff Shaul Mofaz, and Silvan Shalom.

Soon after launching the new party, Sharon and Livni held a national news conference to outline the goals of Kadima. One, he said, was to closely follow the United States-backed road map plan for peace with the Palestinians. Sharon declared that there would be no more unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank, and insisted that Palestinian terrorist groups be disarmed and dismantled. As such, the 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.”

Several Knesset members from a number of parties - including Labor and Likud - immediately joined with Sharon, including 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 members Ronnie Bar-On and Omri Sharon. Former Histadrut chairman Haim Ramon also joined. Prior to the elections to the 17th Knesset,President Shimon Peres joined Kadima as well.

A top Sharon advisor said of the then-new Kadima 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.”

Before the first election as a new party, however, Sharon suffered a major hemorrhagic stroke and fell into a coma. Ehud Olmert took Sharon's place as acting Prime Minister and succeeded him in the top spot for Kadima in the upcoming elections. In the March 2006 elections, Kadima won 29 seats and Olmert formed a ruling coalition with the Labor, Shas, and Gil parties.

In September 2008, Olmert resigned as head of the party and in subsequent party elections Tzipi Livni was raised to the head of Kadima, beating out Mofaz and Sheetrit among a few others. In the February 2009 elections, Kadima once again won the most seats, 28, however the Likud party headed by Netanyahu formed a stronger coalition and took the government.

In March 2012, Livni lost to Mofaz in a leadership election and left Kadima to form a new party, HaTnuah ("the movement" in Hebrew). In the January 2013 elections, after having been the strongest party in the two previous elections, Kadima barely scraped into the governtment, winning two seats and just beating out the electoral threshhold.

After Kadima Party leaders announced that they did not intend to join the Zionist Party camp coalition with the Labor and Hatnuah Parties, Kadima leader Mofaz announced his retirement from politics.  Three months prior to the 2015 elections, the Kadima Party elected Akram Hasson to be their leader in replacement of Mofaz; the first time a Druze has ever been elected the head of a Jewish political party.  The Kadima Party was largely unseen during the 2015 elections after winning only two seats in 2013.  The newest and largest party in the 2009 elections, Kadima is struggling and it is unlikely that they will win any seats in 2015. 

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; Kadima - Wikipedia;
Gil Hoffman and JPost staff, “Sharon gets boost to new party,” The Jerusalem Post, (November 22, 2005);
Yuval Karmi, "Livni Secures 7 MK's to Split Kadima," Ynet News (February 2012);
Elad Benari, "Mofaz wins Kadima leadership, calls on Livni to stay," Arutz Sheva (March 28, 2012)