(Israel Twitter)Kadima, קדימה, lit. Forward, is 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.
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 on-going subject of speculation in Israeli politics and in the Israeli media. The expectation that Sharon would quit 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. Binyamin 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 party was founded by Sharon after he formally left Likud on 21 November 2005 to establish a new party which 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")
Doubts following Sharon's medical problems
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 January 5, 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.
Israel's media reported that Kadima released the main points of its national agenda on 28 November 2005 as presented by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in a drafted statement:
The Israeli nation has a national and historic right to the whole of Israel. However, in order to maintain a Jewish majority, part of the Land of Israel must be given up to maintain a Jewish and democratic state.
Israel shall remain a Jewish state and homeland. Jewish majority in Israel will be preserved by territorial concessions to Palestinians.
Jerusalem and large settlement blocks in the West Bank will be kept under Israeli control.
The Israeli national agenda to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieve two states for two nations will be the road map. It will be carried out in stages: dismantling terror organizations, collecting firearms, implementing security reforms in the Palestinian Authority, and preventing incitement. At the end of the process, a demilitarized Palestinian state devoid of terror will be established.
Israel's political system will be modified to ensure stability. One possibility to achieve this goal would be to hold primary, regional and personal elections to the Knesset and the Prime Minister's office.
Kadima would not rule out a future coalition partnership with any Israeli political party or person.
promoting equality for minorities
negative income tax and national pension
increasing social security benefits and national health insurance
reform of police
Political objectives and policies
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 are willing to implement a "moderate" political agenda. It is known that Sharon believed strongly in the road map for peace and had a close alliance with then US President George W. Bush.
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 Labour 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 Labour's socialism (its economic policies were free-market) and the Likud's opposition to a Palestinian state (however, from an international context, 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 which was applauded by leftist Yossi Beilin.
Place in the political spectrum
There has been some debate over where Kadima lies on the political spectrum. Many in the Western media use the terms 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 was for most of his life on the right of Israeli politics and most of its elected membership are former Likud party members, but it also has a number of notable ex-Labour MK's. The previous government of Ehud Olmert was considered center-leftist, collaborating with the Labor and two sector-socialist parties, Gil and Shas. Following the recent 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.
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. Labour 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.