Politicians on the Left and Right congratulated MK Shelly Yacimovich on Thursday, after her Wednesday-night victory in the Labor Party leadership race, but Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni’s well-wishes sparked controversy.

“I see the Labor Party as a natural partner in Kadima’s path of Zionism, peace and a fair society,” Livni said. “This is the joint goal of both parties’ leaders now and in the future when facing the State of Israel’s future challenges.”

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MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), a vocal critic of his party’s leader, slammed Livni’s statement.

“I didn’t know that Kadima institutions, which consist mostly of right-wing and centrist activists, agreed to become the Israeli Left’s spine,” Schneller said. “Livni forgets too often that Kadima is supposed to represent the center of the political map. Livni’s constant preference of the Left raises a big question about Kadima’s leadership and future as a centrist party.”

Earlier this week, Kadima lawmakers said their party must take steps to initiate a primary of its own following the Labor vote, to prevent Labor’s new leader from taking away their supporters.

“It’s no secret that in Kadima, the party chairman must get reelected before a general election,” Kadima’s Knesset faction head Dalia Itzik said. “Last time, we did it three months before the election according to our bylaws, and I think it was a mistake. Before a general election, our energies must be directed outward, not inward.”

MKs on the Left and Right said a Yacimovich victory would be a major loss for Kadima.

“You should help the Labor Party become an alternative to Kadima,” MK Danny Danon (Likud) said in a message to Yacimovich on Wednesday night.

“Labor is a party with a clear agenda and defined values, unlike Kadima that decides on values according to public opinion and in order to grab headlines,” Danon said. “Kadima should be concerned about its seats [in the Knesset]. There is only room for two major parties in Israel, and only time will tell if Kadima’s trendy party will slowly die, while the ideological parties with roots that built the country will remain.”

MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) said that by electing Yacimovich as leader, Labor was moving from the Left to the Center.

“I congratulate Shelly Yacimovich on her impressive victory in the Labor leadership race,” Gal-On said.

“Now the political picture is clear. Labor chose to move to the Center, and now, as in the early 1990s, there is the Right, there is the Center, and there is Meretz.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak also called Yacimovich to congratulate her.

President Shimon Peres also called the new party leader, telling her that her win was “an unprecedented victory.”

“I wish you luck in your new role. You bring a refreshing spirit to Israeli politics, and I am sure that you will act for in the good interests of the public,” Peres told Yacimovich. The two plan to meet next week.

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