Former prime minister Ariel Sharon's son Omri asked his father's confidants not to mark Thursday's anniversary of the stroke that ended his political career, telling them it was premature to deliver eulogies.
Omri Sharon, who has been sentenced to nine months in prison for using illegal means to raise money for his father's 1999 Likud leadership campaign, personally asked former aides of his father to refrain from giving interviews in which they would inevitably refer in the past tense to his father, who is in a coma at Sheba Hospital.
"We don't want anyone to make a big deal out of [the anniversary]," Sharon told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "It's nothing special. We in the family keep coming every day. We don't give up hope."
Thursday also marks the anniversary of the night in which Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz formally transferred the prime minister's power to his successor, Ehud Olmert, who took over for him in an interim capacity nearly four months before Olmert was elected.
According to a Dahaf Institute poll sponsored by the Knesset Channel to mark the anniversary, 77 percent of Israelis are unsatisfied with Olmert's performance as prime minister.
In the poll, 69% said Olmert did not have good leadership skills, 74% said they did not like his decision-making process, 60% said he lacked integrity and 62% said he did not perform well under pressure.
In polls taken when Sharon was prime minister, he always scored very high in the final category, the ability to perform well under pressure.
Coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki, who was a close confidant of Sharon, said he missed him not only as friend but as a leader. He said that had Sharon been well, there would not be rivalries within Kadima and the party would have fulfilled more of its electoral promises.
Kadima's main promises were withdrawing unilaterally from most of the West Bank, fixing gaps between rich and poor, finding a solution for people prohibited by the Chief Rabbinate from marrying in Israel and changing the electoral system.
"With Sharon, Kadima could have won 50 mandates," Yitzhaki said. "With fewer mandates, it's harder to keep promises, but there is still time.
I can only hope there won't be any more scandals." Yitzhaki said he was "100% sure that Kadima would compete in the next election," but he said it was not clear who its candidate for prime minister would be.
Ministers Tzipi Livni, Meir Sheetrit, Avi Dichter and Shaul Mofaz have all expressed interest in running for the Kadima leadership. The rivalry between the ministers is expected to heat up if signs develop that the end of Olmert's tenure is drawing near.
Disgruntled Kadima MK Marina Solodkin said that to remain a ruling party, Kadima would have to restore its relations with Russian immigrant voters, who were upset that she was left out of the cabinet. She said her constituency was also upset that the party changed its security outlook and that Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz was not appointed defense minister.
MK Majallie Whbee (Kadima) said Sharon would have prepared the army better before the war in Lebanon and not allowed as many mistakes. He predicted that the party would go on despite the void Sharon's hospitalization left behind.
"Sharon's specter continues to hover over the party, but Kadima will survive," Whbee said. "We have branches now and we're reaching out to people. We have tried to keep our promises, and when we haven't, it's the other side's fault."
Kadima director-general Yohanan Plesner said the party's main goal has remained unchanged: maintaining a democratic, Jewish demographic majority. He said realignment was just one way of accomplishing the goal but another would be found and implemented.
Plesner said the new 2007 state budget that was passed on Wednesday would go a long way toward bridging the gap between rich and poor. He said that changing the electoral system was in progress and that the party was still committed to helping people unable to marry in Israel.
"Kadima has established a wide political base that will enable us to deliver on our promises to centrist voters," Plesner said.
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