Labor MK defects to Kadima
Dalia Itzik announces her intention of joining Sharon's new Kadima party; members unveil platform during faction meeting earlier, says 'Part of Israel must be conceded in order for a Jewish and democratic state to exist'; Sharon says he would consider joining forces with any party to form next government
Itzik announced her decision following a meeting with Sharon.
Sources close to Sharon told Ynet that "this is a worthwhile price to pay for Shimon Peres, even though not everyone is excited about Itzik joining Kadima. But Peres demanded it, so it's a worthwhile price."
The move was mediated by former Labor Party chairman and Vice Premier Shimon Peres who pressured Sharon to include Itzik in Kadima’s Knesset list.
Following Itzik's move, it is expected that Peres may also resign from his political duties within the Labor party and join Kadima, where he has been offered a senior ministerial post if the party wins elections slated for March 28.
Senior Kadima officials told Ynet that "it is possible to view this as a sign that Peres will announce his support for Sharon and his party on his return from abroad."
However, Peres’ advisor Yoram Douri said that the vice premier has not made a decision about his political future. Peres is currently in Spain to watch a "Match for Peace" friendly soccer game at the Nou Camp where an Israeli-Palestinian team will take on Spanish giants Barcelona.
Party platform unveiled
Earlier, Sharon met with his new faction at the Knesset where the party platform was unveiled to the 14 MKs present at the meeting. A total of 17 MKs have joined the party.
According to the platform, presented by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, "the nation has the historic and national right to a complete Israel…but part of the country must be conceded in order for a Jewish and democratic state to exist."
The manifesto also states that the party would support the establishment of "an additional nation state to solve the (Palestinian) refugee problem, which would not be a terror state" and that the party would preserve the larger settlement blocs and a unified Jerusalem.
Kadima would also be committed to the Road Map peace plan, including dismantling the terror organizations, the collection of weapons and PA security reforms through stages devised by the plan.
The platform also includes internal issues pertaining to Israel, such as strengthening Jewish identity in society, bridging the secular and religious conflict and developing Israel's democratic characteristics.
The party's social-economic policies, including development in the Galilee and Negev and a war on poverty and crime, is also included.
Sharon: We are in favor of great unity
During the session, Sharon said he may consider a Netanyahu-led Likud as a potential coalition partner, dismissing earlier reports about rejecting Netanyahu.
"On the contrary, we are in favor of greater unity," he said.
"Once in a while such reports are published," Sharon said. "I'm not rejecting anyone."
According to Monday morning's reports, Sharon's close associates rejected the possibility of forming a government in conjunction with a Likud led by Netanyahu, Uzi Landau, or Moshe Feiglin. However, the associates said they do see Shaul Mofaz or Silvan Shalom as potential partners.
The Prime Minister's Office, meanwhile, strongly denied the report and said the source for it was unclear. Sharon himself instructed former Likud members who joined his new party to refrain from commenting on internal Likud matters.
During the Kadima session Monday attendants discussed mostly the party's platform and logistical matters. The party's Director-General, Avigdor Yitzhaki, spoke about an onslaught of new members joining the party and said an orderly registration procedure was needed.
Ronny Sofer and Ilan Marciano contributed to the report