Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will have to defend herself against a tag-team of two former IDF chiefs of General Staff - who have both served as defense minister - to win the Kadima race, after Labor chairman Ehud Barak joined forces in attacking her on Monday with her main competition in the race, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz.
Both Barak and Mofaz's campaigns slammed Livni for suggesting that a cool-headed personality and good judgment were more necessary for a prime minister than military experience. Livni made the statement in an interview with Ynet in reaction to Barak's comments the day before about the necessity for a prime minister to have military experience and knowledge.
"Security does not mean just being a military man," Livni told the Web site. "It's looking beyond and evaluating a situation while taking into account regional, socioeconomic, and military processes, preparing systems and using good sense and judgment that is not based on familiarity with just one field. It means asking the right questions and finding solutions to problems. That's what is required in a leader."
Mofaz's campaign said that by making good judgment a higher priority than military experience, Livni proved that she had neither one. They said that the failure of UN resolution 1701, that Livni negotiated, to end the Second Lebanon War further proved the dangers of her lack of experience and judgment.
Livni's spokesman declined to respond to the Mofaz campaign's charges beyond repeating Livni's statements that Kadima members were choosing a prime minister and not a defense minister.
Barak's associates said he was surprised that Livni had accused him in the interview of interfering in the Kadima race. They said that Barak had not been targeting her specifically when he reiterated the need for military experience but that by responding she unnecessarily incriminated herself.
"Livni's exaggerated response to Barak's ethical statement about the necessary qualifications for prime minister is astonishing," Barak's office said in an official statement. "It's unreasonable that Livni herself thinks that the qualifications necessary for prime minister should be decided by a handful of registered Kadima members. We didn't hear her protest Barak intervening in internal Kadima matters when he forced the party to hold the primary that she is running in now."
The foreign minister received surprising support on Monday from one of her rivals for the Kadima leadership, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, who said he agreed with Livni that the prime minister need not be a general.
"The failures of the Second Lebanon War were due to former prime minister Ariel Sharon's faulty preparation of the army, and he was the ultimate general," Sheetrit told Army Radio in an indication that if he dropped out of the race, he would support Livni and not Mofaz.
Mofaz's campaign further attacked Livni when it complained to the Tel Aviv police that "unidentified elements" had hacked into information connected to the campaign's Web site.
"Hacking into a Web site is like breaking into a home," the campaign said. "We expect the police to find the hackers and arrest them, in order to protect the voters' right to an open and fair race."
Mofaz received a boost on Monday when Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim and MK Ronit Tirosh both endorsed him. Mofaz issued a statement saying that the endorsements testified to the support for him among ministers, MKs, mayors and the party's grassroots.
Boim said in a Tel Aviv press conference that he "considered the qualities required from a prime minister [to be]: good judgment; level-headedness; political, security and diplomatic experience; the ability to motivate people and make decisions; trust; modesty; integrity and incorruptibility. After I went through all these criteria for the candidates it came down to what in the language of the Olympics is a photo finish, but Mofaz is the man and he has the advantage."
Tirosh said she supported Mofaz because of his educational and socioeconomic agenda and his military experience.
"As defense minister he displayed acute socioeconomic sensitivity and initiated successful educational initiatives projects that allowed soldiers to finish their matriculation tests," the former Education Ministry director-general said.
Other top Kadima officials are expected to issue endorsements as early as Tuesday.
Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, who is Livni's top supporter, convened the four Kadima leadership candidates on Monday in an effort to persuade them to allow him to pass the 2009 state budget in the cabinet before the September 17 primary. He said such a move was necessary to maintain economic stability and prevent the political extortion that takes place amid coalition negotiations.
Mofaz responded that it would unfairly hinder his efforts to form a new government if the budget had already passed. Mofaz surprised his counterparts when he said at the meeting that he did not support raising child welfare payments, contradicting statements by Shas officials that he had caved into them on the matter.
The other three candidates supported Bar-On's move. Livni's campaign said the need to pass the budget made it more difficult to form a government and more likely that a general election would be held soon after the primary.
Livni received a boost on Monday when a Dialogue Poll of 1200 registered Kadima members broadcast on Channel 10 found that she would win the race by a significant margin. The poll found that in a four-man race, she would receive 35 percent, Mofaz 25% and the other two candidates 4% each. In a head-to-head race, Livni would win 39% of the vote and Mofaz 33%.
Sources close to Livni said the poll "confirmed what they saw in the field and proved that she is the only candidate who can make the party stronger." Mofaz's campaign said that Livni was consistently falling in the polls while he is gaining.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter will unveil his campaign at an event in Herzliya on Tuesday. He revealed his campaign slogan on Monday: "Dichter, Better than Mofaz, more fitting than Livni."
Jonny Hadi contributed to this report.