kadima 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
With the March 28 election fast approaching, Kadima officials expressed concern on Saturday night that the party's dominance in the polls would result in complacency that will harm Kadima in the poll that counts - at the ballot boxes.
Kadima held its largest rally ever on Saturday night in Ness Ziona, where candidates Tzipi Livni, Shimon Peres, Shaul Mofaz, Meir Sheetrit and Tzahi Hanegbi each spoke about the need to win enough mandates to not only win the election but form a stable government that would give the party enough flexibility to advance its policies.
"Some say let's not give them too much power," Livni said. "But we need power to do the things we believe in and change Israeli politics. In coalition talks, we don't want to have to compromise on what we believe in."
Nine days ahead of the election, Kadima strategists decided to devote the bulk of the remainder of the party's budget to pay some 10,000 people to work on its behalf on election day in lieu of the volunteers upon whom other parties rely.
To save money, Kadima will not hold a traditional closing rally and party chairman Ehud Olmert will not appear in any more campaign events, due to security costs.
Transportation and Education Minister Meir Sheetrit, who heads Kadima's organizational campaign, promised when the party was formed that 100,000 people would join the party but he said Saturday night that the current membership was only 10,300.
He expressed confidence that he could find 10,000 unpaid activists to join the 10,000 workers.
Another problem that Kadima officials said would have to be addressed was the inconsistency of its messages. Sheetrit, for instance, sounded very different in Ness Ziona than Olmert in last weekend's interviews. Olmert talked about setting Israel's border by 2010, but Sheetrit said the party was in no hurry.
"If we don't get peace, we do not believe in jumping to get nothing," Sheetrit told a crowd of some 1,200 people. "If we don't get peace, we are not hurrying anywhere. We have to learn patience from the Arabs. If we have to wait years, we will."
Unlike Olmert, who spoke openly about the potential for a unilateral withdrawal from most of the West Bank, Sheetrit told reporters at the event that "withdrawing unilaterally is the worst of all worlds because there would be a Palestinian state and no peace."
Asked about the inconsistency, Sheetrit said: "What I am saying is what's in the party platform."
Even on socioeconomic issues, Kadima candidates sent different messages at the event. While Peres sounded willing to accept Labor chairman Amir Peretz's coalition demand of raising the minimum wage to $1,000 a month, Sheetrit scoffed at the idea.
"Why not 2,000 or 3,000?" Sheetrit asked rhetorically. "Because it will force employers to fire thousands of workers."
On security issues, the candidates tried to outdo each other with tough statements. Mofaz said that "murderers will not be free for a moment at a time when the Palestinians aren't keeping their commitments." Peres said that "if there will be terror, we will hit back hard without hesitation."
The event was cosponsored by Kadima's new Anglo division. In a gesture to a smattering of Anglos in the hall, Peres, Sheetrit and Hanegbi each said a few sentences in English and English flyers were distributed at the event.