olmert knesset 298 88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
According to an election poll published Sunday, the leading political parties were expected to receive the following number of mandates at next month's elections:
Kadima: 39, Labor: 19, Likud; 16, Shas: 11, NRP-NU: 10, Arab Parties: 8-9, Yisrael Beiteinu: 8, UTJ: 6, Meretz: 5, Israel Radio reported.
If Kadima does indeed win the March 28 elections, party chairman Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would likely form a coalition with the political parties that did not attack Kadima during the campaign, senior sources in Kadima revealed on Saturday night.
Kadima officials praised Israel Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman and the haredi parties, who have decided against attacking Kadima, knowing that polls indicate the party will form the next coalition.
They said there was still a possibility that Likud and Labor would be in the coalition, but it would be more likely if prime ministerial candidates Binyamin Netanyahu and Amir Peretz no longer head their parties.
"There is no doubt that whoever does not attack and acts like a man will have more of a chance to be in the coalition," a senior Kadima source close to Olmert said. "We don't think either [Netanyahu or Peretz] will be there [at the helm of their parties] on April 1, so it will be easier to work with Likud and Labor."
The feeling in Kadima is that Likud and Labor will suffer such a poor showing in the election that both Netanyahu and Peretz will resign immediately. Olmert would have an easier time working with Likud's number two, MK Silvan Shalom, than with his nemesis Netanyahu, and anyone in Labor would be easier to work with than Peretz, who made a point of remaining outside Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coalition when Labor joined.
Kadima officials scoffed at a Yediot Aharonot report that quoted Peretz's associates saying that he would have a difficult time joining a coalition with Olmert due to Kadima's personal attacks on Peretz. "Peretz will beg us to take him [into the coalition] after the election," a source in Kadima said.
Sources close to Peretz responded by accusing Kadima of "using the same scare tactics they tried using against State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and anyone who dares to remind the public of the dozens of scandals that Olmert has been involved in."
Should Netanyahu and Peretz remain the leaders of Likud and Labor, polls indicate that Kadima would be able to form a coalition of more than 61 MKs with Israel Beitenu, Shas and United Torah Judaism. Meretz leader Yossi Beilin has also expressed a desire to be in a Kadima-led coalition, but Meretz's commercials are set to attack Kadima.
"There is a good chance that Lieberman will be in the coalition, because we respect his integrity," a Kadima official said.
An Israel Beitenu spokesman said that even though the two parties were competing for votes in the Russian-immigrant sector, Lieberman has decided to keep his campaign positive. "Israel Beitenu is not a protest movement and we don't hide that we want to be in the government," Lieberman said in an interview published on the party's Web site.
United Torah Judaism MK Avraham Ravitz said that his party "would look for reasons to join the coalition and not for reasons not to join." He said he believed an agreement could be reached quickly and that he hoped that his party would not "do nonsense" by attacking Kadima during the campaign. A Shas spokesman said his party would not attack Kadima because "their voters are not our target audience."
A Teleseker poll published in Ma'ariv on Friday found that the Likud would win three more mandates if Shalom led the party instead of Netanyahu. Kadima officials said the poll was not surprising and they thought from the start that Shalom would have been a tougher challenger than Netanyahu.
At Netanyahu's request, the Likud will on Sunday submit the signatures necessary to request a special Knesset session to accuse Olmert of indirectly continuing to supply funds to the Palestinian Authority.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Sharon's family and aides will solemnly mark his 78th birthday at Hadassah-University Hospital, Ein Kerem.
"It is a sad and difficult day," a Sharon adviser said. "The staff of the Prime Minister's Office will gather in the room next door to Sharon's at the hospital most of the day."