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Declaring that "Kadima is here to stay," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni gave her second rousing speech in less than two weeks in support of her party on Sunday, focusing on its ideals as a centrist political vehicle.
While other politicians who gathered at the opening of Kadima's 14th branch and its first one in Tel Aviv, including Ministers Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit, spoke in support of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Livni instead focused on the party and its need for unity in addressing party activists.
Livni said that at this time when some question the party's longevity, it is important to remember that "Kadima was born to advance objectives that are important to the Israeli public." The party, she said, "was created for all the right reasons."
She asked its members and supporters to remember that they all departed their former parties on the Left and the Right for a reason.
"There are those who say: There is the Right and the Left, but what is Kadima? It is unacceptable to me to say that there's a vacuum in the center. In the center there is an ideology, and it is that ideology that we have come to carry out."
Livni, who came from the Likud, referred to her former party on the Right as one that always spoke of what it could not do.
"I came form a party whose ideology began with the words, 'no,'" recalled Livni. She said that Kadima was created in part to preserve a Jewish and democratic state without giving up on security.
"We have to remember that Israel is fighting for its existence," Livni said.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres spoke of the improvements the party had made in the country's economic situation. But Livni asked those present to keep in mind that there was still a long way to go to help those in need. There are those who have relied on handouts to survive the coming Pessah holiday, she said.
The party and its future was not the only subject of the gathering, however. A number of speakers said they supported Peres should he pursue the presidency in the Knesset in May.
To date, Labor MK Colette Avital and Likud MK Reuven Rivlin have both announced that they want to replace President Moshe Katsav when his term ends this summer.
Peres has yet to formally announce his intention to run for president. In spite of a public endorsement from Olmert, Peres told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that when he has something to say on the matter he would do so.
Support within the Labor Party for Avital is one of the topics on the agenda when the Central Committee meets in Tel Aviv on Monday.
Separately, Labor's Ehud Barak held a rally with his supporters Sunday. He is among five candidates bidding to head the party in its May primaries.
Barak told his followers it was time to start preparing for the situation after the release of the Winograd Committee report, in which it is assumed that the country's leadership, including Olmert, would be criticized for its decision making during the second Lebanon war. At that point, he said, the Labor Party would have to be prepared to offer an alternative.
Behind the scenes in Kadima, a number of party activists said that they too are working to distance the party from Olmert in anticipation of the day when he would no longer be its leader.
Amir Mizroch contributed to this report.