Center-Left mulls candidates for race against PM

Olmert and Livni are coordinating decision whether to run in coming elections, are expected to decide within days.

Olmert and Livni 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Olmert and Livni 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Politicians working on forming a new Center-Left party set Monday as the deadline to determine who should lead it and perhaps serve as the main opposition to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in January 22’s election.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert will decide by then whether to make a political comeback. He met on Thursday with former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, whom he would want to present as his candidate for defense minister.
Olmert is coordinating his decision with his successor as Kadima leader, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, as well as former Kadima council chairman Haim Ramon.
Should Olmert not run, Livni is leaning toward running.
“I have not used the words ‘no comment’ very often, but this time I will,” Livni said at Thursday’s Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization convention in the capital when asked about her future.
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Whether it is Olmert or Livni heading it, Ramon has said he would want the new party being formed to unite with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, but Lapid has repeatedly ruled out such a move.
“As I said a hundred times, I will not say anything about Olmert, because he is a family friend and my views are not objective,” Lapid said. “I love the man and his wife and family, but we won’t run together. Yesh Atid will run on its own.”
While Olmert could run at the head of Kadima, if he decides against a political comeback, Kadima could split into parties led by Livni and current chairman Shaul Mofaz. In a speech to his party’s council in Petah Tikva on Thursday night, Mofaz hinted that he could support Olmert and possibly even Livni.
“The media says there is no alternative to Netanyahu, but I totally disagree,” Mofaz said. “There are better, more suitable people than him: Olmert would be better than Netanyahu. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan would be better than Netanyahu. Gabi Ashkenazi would be better than Netanyahu, and Livni would be better than Netanyahu.”
Mofaz started saying that he would be better than Netanyahu, but was interrupted by someone in the crowd who said it first. The sentiment met with raucous applause and a standing ovation from about 100 council members.
As for how to defeat Netanyahu, Mofaz said, “It won’t be easy. We’ll have to roll up our sleeves and work hard.”
He added that Kadima would kick off its election campaign on Sunday.
The atmosphere at Kadima headquarters was hopeful.
One council member cited predictions that the party would get fewer than 10 seats in the next Knesset, declaring, “Polls are lies!” Eight of the party’s 28 MKs sat in the front row, and the few who spoke made sure to sound optimistic.
“We will form the next government,” Kadima faction chairwoman Dalia Itzik said.
“We will replace this bad government.”
Party MK Ronit Tirosh cheered from the stage, next to a dais where Mofaz and Itzik sat, “We will win!” Netanyahu was not the only target of the barbs at the meeting; the speakers did not hide their dislike of Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich.
Moti Elfariach, a council member who founded Kadima’s Haifa branch, demanded, “What experience does Shelly have? She has a big mouth, but does anyone really think she can be prime minister?” Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani referred to what he called Yacimovich’s “extreme socialism that will only increase social gaps.”
The council overwhelmingly approved a decision that Kadima’s MKs made on Sunday to cancel the party primary and establish a selection committee headed by Mofaz to choose the Knesset candidates list.