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Kadima ( , lit. Forward) was founded as a centrist political party in Israelmarker by moderates from Likud soon joined by like-minded Labor politicians. It became the largest party in the Knessetmarker after the 2006 elections, winning 29 of the 120 seats. Kadima was originally founded largely to support the issue of Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan, and classified itself broadly as centrist and liberal. The party is currently headed by Tzipi Livni, who places strong emphasis on both Israel's security and continuing the peace process, and its members include moderates of the political center and center-left who support diplomatic steps to peace with the Palestinians.



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 and protege of David Ben-Gurion, 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 unilateral 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 stroke 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 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 Ariel Sharon after he formally left Likud on 21 November 2005 to establish a new party which would grant him the freedom to carry out his policy of unilateral disengagement plan - removing Israeli settlements from Palestinian territory and fixing Israel's borders with a prospective Palestinian state.

The name Kadima, which means "Forward" or "Onward", 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 because it is associated with the battle-charge of army officers, suggesting that Sharon may be attempting to highlight his military accomplishments ahead of the March 2006 elections. 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. Nevertheless, 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 Labour, 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 Labour decided to join the party shortly thereafter. On 30 November 2005, Shimon Peres quit Labour after more than 60 years with the party, and announced he would help Sharon pursue peace with the Palestinians. In the immediate aftermath of the illnesses of Ariel Sharon, 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.

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.

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.

In government

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.


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.
  • Jerusalemmarker and large settlement blocks in the West Bankmarker 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 Knessetmarker 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
  • civil marriage
  • 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 Knessetmarker 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.

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 Bankmarker, although he declined to give an actual timeline or specifics for the proposed action.

Kadima favors continuing a market-based economy with adequate welfare benefits.[205771][205772]

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.

Following the 2009 elections, Kadima leads 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. According to Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn, Kadima does not have any ideological differences with the Labor Party that would prevent a merger.

Chairmen of Kadima

Knesset members

The party currently has 28 MKs:

Former Knesset members


  1. Obama ready to press Israeli parties to form unity government The Telegraph, 14 February 2009
  2. [1]
  3. Adviser reveals PM planned split months ago Ynetnews, 24 November 2005
  4. 'National Responsibility' name of PM's new party; NRP to protest The Jerusalem Post, 23 November 2005
  5. Shinui headed for oblivion Jerusalem Post, 25 November 2005
  6. Kadima Party Jewish Virtual Library
  7. Israel's Sharon suffers a stroke BBC News, 18 December 2005
  8. Israel's Kadima could win under Olmert Angus Reid, 9 January 2006
  9. Comatose Sharon 'moves eyelids' BBC News, 16 January 2006
  10. PM Sharon: We Are Committed to the Road Map Israel National News, 22 November 2005
  11. * Can Kadima survive without Sharon? BBC News, 5 January 2006 * Country Briefings: Israel The Economist, 27 April 2007 * Olmert claims victory in Israeli election MSNBC, 30 March 2006 * Israeli media: Kadima wins at polls CNN, 28 March 2006 * New worldview shapes vote in Israel Christian Science Monitor, 28 March 2006 * Centrist Cause In Israel Seeks New Leader Washington Post, 6 January 2006
  12. Analysis: Israel's new coalition BBC News, 3 May 2006
  13. Likud may offer top spots to Kadima, Lieberman in bid to form quick coalition Haaretz, 12 February 2009
  14. Peres: Kadima, Labor should unite Ynetnews, 5 April 2006

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