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|Founded||24 November 2005|
|Headquarters||Petah Tikva, Israel|
|International affiliation||World Zionist Organization|
|Colours||Navy blue, Red and White|
|Most MKs||29 (2006)|
|Fewest MKs||2 (2013)|
Kadima (Hebrew: קדימה, lit. Forward) was a centrist and liberal political party in Israel. It was established on 24 November 2005 by moderates from Likud largely to support the issue of Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan, and was soon joined by like-minded Labor politicians.
With Ehud Olmert as party chairman following Sharon's stroke, it became the largest party in the Knesset after the 2006 elections, winning 29 of the 120 seats, and led a coalition government. Although Kadima also won the most seats in the 2009 elections under Tzipi Livni's leadership, it became an opposition party for the first time after a Likud-led government was formed. Livni was defeated in the 2012 leadership election, losing out to the more conservative Shaul Mofaz. Following Livni's defeat, the party's progressive wing broke away at the end of 2012, to form a new centre-left party, Hatnuah, which Livni led from the outset. In the 2013 elections, Kadima became the smallest party in the Knesset, winning only 2 seats and barely passing the electoral threshold. It did not enter the 2015 elections.
Prior to Kadima's formation, the political tug-of-war between Ariel Sharon and his right-wing supporters, both within the Likud and outside of it, was an ongoing subject of speculation in Israeli politics and in the Israeli media. The expectation that Sharon would leave his own party to form a new party composed of his Likud allies and open the door to politicians from other parties to switch to the new party was dubbed the "big bang" (HaMapatz HaGadol) because it would result in a radical realignment of Israel's political landscape.
A number of complex factors contributed to Sharon's decision to split from the Likud. After the official split from the party, Sharon claimed it was a decision made on a single night's thought, but at the press conference announcing the formation of the new party, Sharon adviser and Kadima's new Director General, Avigdor Yitzhaki, accidentally revealed that work on the project had been going on for several months. In the past Sharon had switched between left- and right-wing politics: having been a Mapai member, he joined Likud in the early 1970s, before leaving the party. After acting as a special advisor to Alignment PM Yitzhak Rabin in the mid-1970s, he established an economically left-wing Shlomtzion party, which later merged with Likud. On becoming Prime Minister in the 2000s, Sharon twice formed unity governments with the Labor Party.
In 2005 the implementation of the Gaza disengagement plan exposed enormous rifts inside the Likud and wider society in Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu capitalised on the split within the Likud by aligning himself with the rejectionist faction. While Sharon's popularity grew among the Israeli populace at large, it declined inside the Likud party structure. Netanyahu resigned as Finance Minister on 7 August 2005, saying the government's implementation of the disengagement plan endangered the safety of Israeli citizens. Sharon was then unable to get approval from the Likud Central Committee for his key ally Ehud Olmert to that position.
The final straw was the unexpected ousting of Sharon's ally Shimon Peres as leader of the Labor Party by the election of left-wing Histadrut union leader Amir Peretz in an internal ballot on 8 November 2005. Peretz demanded that all Labor Party ministers resign from the unity government and called for dissolution of the Knesset and for early elections, which were to be held in March 2006. When all the Labor ministers had resigned, Sharon lost his safety net of supporters from the party for the implementation of his political agenda, which included continuing negotiations with the Palestinian Authority for "permanent borders" and a hoped-for final resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and the settlement of the Arab–Israeli conflict.
The party was founded by Sharon after he formally left Likud on 21 November 2005 to establish a new party that would grant him the freedom to carry out the disengagement plan—removing Israeli settlements from Palestinian territory and fixing Israel's borders with a prospective Palestinian state.
The name Kadima (literally: "Forward") emerged within the first days of the split and was favored by Sharon. However, it was not immediately adopted, and the party was initially named "National Responsibility" (Hebrew: אחריות לאומית, Ahrayaut Leumit), which was proposed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and enthusiastically endorsed by Reuven Adler, Sharon's close confidante and strategy adviser. Although "National Responsibility" was regarded as provisional, subsequent tests conducted with focus groups proved it much more popular than Kadima. "National Responsibility" seemed certain to become permanent. Surprisingly, however, it was announced on 24 November 2005 that the party had finally registered under the name Kadima. The title Kadima has symbolic meaning for many Israelis who associate it with the battle-charge of army officers; Sharon may have attempted to highlight his military accomplishments ahead of the March 2006 elections. As a common Hebrew word, however, the term Kadima has been ubiquitous in Israeli political rhetoric and is likely not indicative of any specific ideological bias; indeed, it had been used as a name before by early Zionist leader Nathan Birnbaum, and was the motto of the Jewish Legion of World War I formed by Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Joseph Trumpeldor. The decision to name the party "Kadima" was criticised by Shinui leader Yosef Lapid, who remarked that it was too similar to Benito Mussolini's newspaper Avanti (Italian for "Forward").
According to Sharon supporters, on the first day after its founding, Kadima already had nearly 150 members, most of whom were defectors from Likud. Several Knesset members from Labor, Likud, and other parties immediately joined the new party, including cabinet ministers Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Meir Sheetrit, Gideon Ezra and Avraham Hirschson. Deputy ministers Ruhama Avraham, Majalli Wahabi, Eli Aflalo, Marina Solodkin, Ze'ev Boim and Yaakov Edri also joined the party, along with Likud MKs Roni Bar-On and Omri Sharon. Former Histadrut chairman Haim Ramon of Labor decided to join the party shortly thereafter. On 30 November 2005, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres left the Labor Party after more than 60 years with the party, and announced he would join Kadima to help Sharon pursue peace with the Palestinians. In the immediate aftermath of Sharon's illnesses, there was speculation that Peres might be chosen to take over as leader of Kadima. One poll suggested the party would win 42 seats in the March 2006 elections with Peres as leader compared to 40 if it were led by Ehud Olmert. Most senior Kadima leaders, however, were former members of Likud and indicated their support for (former Likud) Olmert as Sharon's successor.
The ramifications of Sharon's close identification with Kadima moved the party in an unexpected direction due to his mounting medical problems, which began only a few weeks after Kadima was formed. First, Sharon was hospitalized on 18 December 2005 after reportedly suffering a minor stroke. This introduced a serious element of uncertainty for Sharon's and Kadima's supporters.
During his hospital stay, Sharon was also diagnosed with a minor hole in his heart and was scheduled to undergo a cardiac catheterization to fill the hole in his atrial septum on 5 January 2006. However, on 4 January 2006, 22:50 Israel Time (GMT +0200) Sharon suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke, and was evacuated to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem to undergo brain surgery.
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert succeeded him as Prime Ministerial candidate. Without Sharon, there was uncertainty about the future of the party. Nevertheless, three polls taken shortly after Sharon's illness showed that Kadima continued to lead its rivals by large margins. Later polls showed Kadima strengthening its power base further, particularly amongst left wing voters who had opposed Sharon in the past.
On 16 January 2006, party members chose Ehud Olmert as acting chairman for the March elections. Kadima won 29 seats, and was asked to form a government by president Moshe Katsav. Olmert formed a coalition with Labor, Shas and Gil, the government being sworn in on 4 May.
Yisrael Beiteinu joined the coalition in October 2006, but left again in January 2008 in protest at negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Olmert resigned as party leader in 2008, resulting in a leadership election, held on 17 September. The vote was won by Tzipi Livni, who beat Shaul Mofaz, Meir Sheetrit and Avi Dichter. Following her victory, Livni failed to form a coalition government, as she refused to agree to Shas' demands, resulting in early elections in February 2009. In the elections Kadima remained the largest party in the Knesset, winning 28 seats, one more than Likud. However, Likud's Netanyahu was asked to form a government by President Peres following talks with delegations from all parties represented in the Knesset.
Livni lost the leadership of Kadima to Shaul Mofaz, considered the leader of the party's right wing, in a leadership election in March 2012. In November, Livni, supported mainly by Kadima's dovish flank, left Kadima with seven other Kadima MKs to form a new centrist political party, Hatnuah.
In the 2013 legislative election, Kadima lost almost 90% of its vote share from 2009. The party narrowly avoided being ejected from the Knesset, crossing the 2% threshold by just a few hundred votes. The party was reduced to just two MKs, Mofaz and Yisrael Hasson, making it the smallest of the 12 factions in the chamber. Prior to the 2015 elections Mofaz announced that he was retiring from politics after Kadima decided against joining the Zionist Union alliance. Hasson had already left the Knesset in 2013 to become chairman of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Following Mofaz's retirement, Akram Hasson was elected party leader, becoming the first Druze leader of a predominantly Jewish party. However, his leadership was short-lived, with Hasson soon quitting the party to join the Kulanu list, receiving the 12th slot. Following this announcement, Kadima opted to sit out the election.
In the early stages, the policies of Kadima directly reflected the views of Ariel Sharon and his stated policies.
Early statements from the Sharon camp reported by the Israeli media claimed that they were setting up a truly "centrist" and "liberal" party. It would appear that Sharon hoped to attract members of the Knesset from other parties and well-known politicians regardless of their prior beliefs provided they accepted Sharon's leadership and were willing to implement a "moderate" political agenda.
On the domestic front, Sharon had shown a tendency to agree with his past political partner, the pro-secular and outspokenly anti-religious Shinui party (his allies in the 2003 government), which sought to promote a secular civil agenda as opposed to the strong influence of Israel's Orthodox and Haredi parties. One of the Haredi parties, United Torah Judaism, joined Sharon's last coalition at the same time as the Labor Party, after Shinui had left Sharon's original governing coalition. In the past, Shinui had also called itself a "centrist" party because it rejected both Labor's socialism (its economic policies were free-market) and the Likud's opposition to a Palestinian state (however, from an international standpoint, Shinui may have actually been on the centre-right).
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni reportedly told Israel Army Radio that Kadima intended to help foster the desire for a separate Palestinian state, a move applauded by leftist Yossi Beilin.
Sharon was one of the prime architects pushing for the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier that has been criticized by left-wing and right-wing Israeli politicians, but was a cornerstone of Sharon's determination to establish Israel's final borders, which he saw himself as uniquely suited to do in the so-called "Final Status" negotiations.
In a 22 November 2005 press conference, Sharon also mentioned that he favored withdrawing from untenable Israeli settlements in the West Bank, although he declined to give an actual timeline or specifics for the proposed action.
There has been some debate over where Kadima lies on the political spectrum. Many in the Western media use the term centrist, (in that it is positioned between the Labor Party and Likud). Over the last thirty years, Israel has seen a movement by both the right and the left towards the center. Founder Ariel Sharon spent a career switching between the right of Israeli politics and the left—notably in the 1970s when he served as an aide to then Prime Minister Rabin. Most of its elected membership are former Likud party members, but it also has a number of notable ex-Labor MK's. The previous government of Ehud Olmert was considered left of center, collaborating with the Labor and two sector-socialist parties, Gil and Shas. Following the 2009 elections, with its subsequent political negotiations for a centerist coalition with the Likud and the Labor, it is suggested that the ideological differences of the center-left and center-right in Israel are fairly minor, but the fact that this only lasted 60 days belies this.
When Kadima was trying to form a coalition in 2006, the BBC reported that the new party leaned center-right in economic terms while its main coalition partner, Labor, leaned center-left. Labor wanted the Finance Ministry to push through some costly social reforms. It failed to get it, but still insists that the minimum wage, and pension and health benefits, be raised in Israel. At the time, Labor favored a negotiated land agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Kadima had so far refused to speak to any Palestinian leader since the Hamas election and has spoken openly of taking unilateral steps in the West Bank, which the Palestinians oppose. Since then, however, Kadima has directly negotiated with the Palestinian Authority.
Following the 2009 elections, Kadima led the opposition in the Knesset. During the elections, Kadima successfully attracted left-of-center voters, to the dismay of Labor and Meretz leaders, who discouraged their supporters from doing so. Neither Labor nor Meretz, who were initially expected to be Kadima's natural allies, recommended Livni as prime minister to Peres, reportedly due to Livni's courting of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party. Shimon Peres told Ynet in 2006 that "there is no difference" between Kadima and Labor, and suggested that the two groups unite. He added that neither he nor Kadima founder Ariel Sharon liked the economic policy of Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. The Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn suggested in November 2009, that Kadima does not have any ideological differences with the Labor Party that would prevent a merger.
After the 2013 election the party had 2 MKs:
Former Knesset members