olmert 298 88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert attempted to end criticism that he had been acting according to a script written by his advisers with a fiery, improvised speech at a Kadima rally on Sunday night.
In the first event ever at Kadima's new Petah Tikvah headquarters, Olmert came out swinging, attacking his competition for the premiership, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu and Labor chairman Amir Peretz.
"For the first time, Israeli voters have a choice," Olmert said. "People who want the conservative right that is disconnected from reality have today's Likud. They just give empty slogans that are completely irrelevant to our complex reality. People who want a left-wing radical socialist party have Peretz's Labor, which has no way of dealing with Israel's socioeconomic problems other than spouting the slogans of the 1950s Histadrut."
Making reference to Netanyahu's pledge to eradicate poverty within three years, Olmert said that Kadima would unveil a seven-year plan that would be realistic but effective.
"Even in seven years, we won't completely eradicate poverty but we will create a different socioeconomic dynamic," Olmert said.
Mocking Netanyahu's slogan "strong against Hamas," Olmert said that "there is no need to declare that we are strong" at a time when the world has endorsed Israel's handling of the change in Palestinian leadership.
"We won't negotiate with Hamas or anyone connected to them," Olmert said, "But we can't close diplomatic horizons if they exist."
Olmert cautioned an audience full of Kadima mayors and branch heads not to allow themselves to be complacent despite polls predicting that the party will easily win 40 mandates.
"I know there is nothing we enjoy more than reading the polls," Olmert said. "But I recommend we not go astray after the polls. Instead, let's just go to work."
Olmert's number two in the party, former prime minister Shimon Peres, who has been a victim of overly optimistic polls countless times, said that the previous coalition's problems governing were proof that the party needs as many mandates as possible.
"I am not an expert on polls," Peres admitted. "They are nice to smell and dangerous to swallow. We don't want to say we could have gotten 50 seats had we worked harder. I can't guarantee that we will win a majority, but we don't want to be dependent on political buying and selling."
The Likud responded by calling Olmert a left-wing extremist and accusing him of putting his head in the sand to ignore the danger posed by Hamas. Labor responded by calling Olmert a cigar-smoking hedonist who cannot comprehend the problems of the poor.
The Likud's new slogan, which will run in ads beginning on Monday is "Putin and Chirac are taking Olmert to school." The Likud blames Olmert in the ad for Hamas's invitation to Moscow.
Kadima also unveiled a new commercial on Sunday. The ad accused Netanyahu of surrendering to Hamas and Yasser Arafat, but ends with the message "Israel is stronger than Bibi."
In honor of Tu Bishvat, Kadima MKs will plant a new "Kadima Forest" in the Negev on Monday. The Supreme Court decided on Sunday to allow Kadima to plant the forest, rejecting a complaint from the Likud. The court decided that the Likud should pay the court costs of Kadima and the Jewish National Fund of NIS 10,000.