Politicians working on forming a new Center-Left party set Monday as the
deadline to determine who should lead it and perhaps serve as the main
opposition to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in January 22’s
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert will decide by then whether
to make a political comeback. He met on Thursday with former IDF chief of staff
Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, whom he would want to present as his
candidate for defense minister.
Olmert is coordinating his decision with
his successor as Kadima leader, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, as well as
former Kadima council chairman Haim Ramon.
Should Olmert not run, Livni
is leaning toward running.
“I have not used the words ‘no comment’ very
often, but this time I will,” Livni said at Thursday’s Hadassah Women’s Zionist
Organization convention in the capital when asked about her
Whether it is Olmert or Livni heading it, Ramon has said he would
want the new party being formed to unite with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, but Lapid
has repeatedly ruled out such a move.
“As I said a hundred times, I will
not say anything about Olmert, because he is a family friend and my views are
not objective,” Lapid said. “I love the man and his wife and family, but we
won’t run together. Yesh Atid will run on its own.”
While Olmert could
run at the head of Kadima, if he decides against a political comeback, Kadima
could split into parties led by Livni and current chairman Shaul Mofaz. In a
speech to his party’s council in Petah Tikva on Thursday night, Mofaz hinted
that he could support Olmert and possibly even Livni.
“The media says
there is no alternative to Netanyahu, but I totally disagree,” Mofaz said.
“There are better, more suitable people than him: Olmert would be better than
Netanyahu. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan would be better than Netanyahu. Gabi
Ashkenazi would be better than Netanyahu, and Livni would be better than
Mofaz started saying that he would be better than Netanyahu,
but was interrupted by someone in the crowd who said it first. The sentiment met
with raucous applause and a standing ovation from about 100 council
As for how to defeat Netanyahu, Mofaz said, “It won’t be easy.
We’ll have to roll up our sleeves and work hard.”
He added that Kadima
would kick off its election campaign on Sunday.
The atmosphere at Kadima
headquarters was hopeful.
One council member cited predictions that the
party would get fewer than 10 seats in the next Knesset, declaring, “Polls are
lies!” Eight of the party’s 28 MKs sat in the front row, and the few who spoke made
sure to sound optimistic.
“We will form the next government,” Kadima
faction chairwoman Dalia Itzik said.
“We will replace this bad
Party MK Ronit Tirosh cheered from the stage, next to a dais
where Mofaz and Itzik sat, “We will win!” Netanyahu was not the only target of
the barbs at the meeting; the speakers did not hide their dislike of Labor
chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich.
Moti Elfariach, a council member who
founded Kadima’s Haifa branch, demanded, “What experience does Shelly have? She
has a big mouth, but does anyone really think she can be prime minister?” Bat
Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani referred to what he called Yacimovich’s “extreme
socialism that will only increase social gaps.”
overwhelmingly approved a decision that Kadima’s MKs made on Sunday to cancel
the party primary and establish a selection committee headed by Mofaz to choose
the Knesset candidates list.