Sunday, August 24, 2008
Kadima reaches out to Putin party
Haviv Rettig , THE JERUSALEM POST
A proposed Kadima link to Russia's ruling Yedinaya Rossiya (United Russia) Party has sparked furious criticism from Israeli political opponents. The criticism follows a recent trip to Moscow by Kadima officials, including Nada Chozoy, who is on the staff of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Kadima treasurer Yitzhak Hadad, to meet with officials from Yedinaya Rossiya to discuss developing formal ties between the parties.
The envisioned relationship - first reported in the Russian-language Web site Izrus - is of the type commonly maintained between two parties with similar outlooks. Among other such connections, Kadima currently has ties to the Social Democratic Party of Germany which have resulted in mutual visits by party officials.
The proposed relationship with United Russia is described by a senior Kadima official familiar with the plans as "extremely preliminary." Yet officials in the Likud, and even some in Kadima itself, have blasted the initiative, saying this is a bad time to have Israel's ruling party developing close ties with the party of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, currently the cause of much anger in Washington and elsewhere over the conflict in Georgia, a close friend to Israel.
"This is a diplomatic problem for Israel's relationship with Washington," said a Likud official, echoing sentiments also heard from Kadima sources close to Transportation Minister and would-be Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz.
"If they did this to show that Livni was close to Russians [ahead of the Kadima primaries], then it backfired," the Likud official said, "because young Russian-speaking Israelis hate Putin's authoritarianism."
A Kadima official denied the talks in Moscow were initiated for reasons of internal Kadima politics and noted that the contact with United Russia was begun several months before the outbreak of the conflict in Georgia.
At the same time, World Kadima, a separate international organization which lobbies on Kadima's behalf abroad, is examining the idea of opening an office in Moscow. Such representative branches already exist in the US, France and South America, according to outgoing World Kadima chairman MK Yoel Hasson. Their sole purpose, he maintains, "is to take care of the Jews there."
This initiative, too, is at an early stage, contrary to some reports which suggested a branch has already been opened. "We're still looking for appropriate people to be on the board and for a president," said Hasson.
The planned branch would expand on Kadima's existing presence in Moscow , where it is already represented by local businessman and Jewish activist Eugene Satanovsky, who leads Kadima's Russian-speaking delegation to the World Zionist Organization and other international Jewish forums.
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