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Calling for a wide coalition to lead the country in his quest to establish permanent borders, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert raised a glass of wine in a pre-holiday toast on Sunday night to thank his hundreds of supporters and in particular Kadima's founder, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
If Sharon came out of the coma he has been in since January, Olmert said he would tell him, "Arik, your dream has been fulfilled. Kadima, the party that you created, now governs the country and will lead it to fulfill all that you desired and hoped for in the years to come."
Speaking to a packed hall of more than 500 supporters at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, Olmert spoke of the coalition negotiations he held during the day.
He made passing reference to false stories that had circulated in the media that Labor Party head Amir Peretz had tried to form a coalition. "There was an impression that someone else could do it, I am happy that now the matter is clear," he said.
In looking for coalition partners, Olmert said he was open to any Zionist party that agreed with his party's basic platform. "We will not discount anyone. We will honor and reach out a hand to anyone that wants to work with us," he said.
He pledged that Kadima would work to improve education and social welfare, while preserving the nation's security.
Across the city, hundreds of Likud activists packed the party's headquarters to hear party leader Binyamin Netanyahu make the Pessah toast.
In an effort to prove that the party has a future despite its poor showing of only 12 mandates, activists including former Knesset speaker Dov Shilansky, 80, climbed 14 flights of starts to attend the event since the elevators in the dilapidated building were broken.
Fearing a poor showing, Likud spokesman Ophir Akunis banned reporters from the event.
"The party will get stronger and stronger," Netanyahu vowed. "There are destroyers and builders and we are builders." Netanyahu's critics, former ministers Silvan Shalom, Limor Livnat and Dan Naveh, did not attend.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
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