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(photo credit: Gideon Markowicz)
Fears that political deals could help Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz gain inordinate power within Kadima proved unfounded when candidates loyal to him suffered a blow in Wednesday's party primary.
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni was concerned ahead of the race that Mofaz would succeed in electing enough of his allies to be able to threaten to split the party and take a third of its MKs to the Likud. The relatively low turnout of under 45 percent seemed set to give Mofaz's candidates an advantage because of their strength in the deals.
But events proved otherwise as several Mofaz allies were demoted to borderline or unrealistic slots, including MK Otniel Schneller, 27; former IDF ombudsman Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avner Barzani, 32; Mofaz's political adviser Avi Douan, 34; Mofaz's campaign manager Yuval Zellner, 36; and MK David Tal, 39.
Mofaz did not have to campaign for himself, because the second slot on the list after Livni was reserved for him. Mofaz looked angry when he was called up to the podium ahead of the official announcement of the primary's results at Kadima's election headquarters at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.
Livni entered the room to applause, holding hands with Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who received the most votes in the primary to win the third slot. In a move Livni's associates later admitted was a mistake, Livni and Itzik shared the stage alone for a full five minutes before Mofaz was invited up.
Itzik will be followed on the list by MK Tzahi Hanegbi and ministers Ronnie Bar-On, Ze'ev Boim, Meir Sheetrit, Ruhama Avraham-Balila and Avi Dichter. MK Marina Solodkin rounded out the top 10 in a slot reserved for an immigrant candidate.
The big winners of the evening included Finance Minister Bar-On, who avoided a demotion despite efforts to bring him down by Histradrut Labor Federation chief Ofer Eini and Manufacturers Association head Shraga Brosh; MK Yoel Hasson, who will be 11th on the list at age 35; and MK Shlomo Molla, who won the 19th spot on his own merit after rejecting moves to reserve a slot for an Ethiopian-born candidate.
The losers of the race included Vice Premier Haim Ramon, who only won the 17th slot, and former professors Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael and Menahem Ben-Sasson, who will be 31th and 35th on the list, respectively. All three remaining religious MKs left in Kadima after MK Ze'ev Elkin left for the Likud were demoted: Ben-Sasson, Schneller and Tal.
Ben-Sasson's loss was especially lamented in Kadima, because he worked hard serving the public for three years as chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, but he did not do the campaigning necessary to get safely reelected.
The new faces include Jewish Agency chairman Ze'ev Bielski, 15; United Jewish Communities-Israel director-general Nachman Shai, 18; former Ofakim councilman Robert Tibayev, 20; former Shaare Tzedek Medical Center deputy director-general Rachel Adato, 22; and former Prisons Service and Jerusalem police chief Arye Bibi, 26.
In a victory for Livni, her deputy foreign minister, Majallie Whbee, withstood a difficult challenge from former Daliat al-Carmel mayor Akram Hason for a slot on the list reserved for a non-Jew. Fights broke out after the results were announced between supporters of the two Druse candidates.
Livni expressed confidence that the candidates elected would help her bridge the gap with the Likud, which is leading in the polls, and emerge victorious in the February 10 general election.
"Kadima proved tonight that we can do what Likud and Labor can't do, and that's run a computerized, accurate and democratic election," Livni told the crowd at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. "Kadima has a talented team that epitomizes the center without extremes. This team will return Kadima to what it was supposed to be and lead the country to a better day."
The Likud issued a statement calling the Kadima list "a tired and boring collection of recycled failures with no vision, who have already proven that they cannot run the country."
Labor lawmakers charged that 80% of the Kadima list was made up of former Likud MKs. They warned potential voters that if they supported Kadima, their vote could go to MKs who could split from the party and return to Likud.
"It is the list of a temporary party that will split the day after the election," a Labor spokesman said. "The low turnout proves that Kadima members are either disgusted with the party or they didn't realize what they were signing when they joined it in the first place."