Livni, Mofaz set for March 27 showdown

Dichter: Under Livni, we will end up like the capsized ‘Costa Concordia.’

MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima) 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni initiated a battle over her job in a press conference at her party’s headquarters in Petah Tikva on Wednesday, announcing that the Kadima leadership race would be held on March 27.
Livni had been under pressure to advance the contest after primaries were held in Labor, moved up in Likud, set in Meretz, and initiated in Habayit Hayehudi. Her announcement came just one day after her party rival, Shaul Mofaz, accused her of delaying the race out of fear that it would end her political career.
“On March 27, the members of Kadima will re-elect their chairwoman and Israeli citizens will know who the Zionist majority’s candidate for prime minister will be,” she said energetically.
“This primary will decide not only who will head Kadima, but whether the extremist government of Netanyahu will stay in power. Only Kadima under me can defeat Netanyahu.”
Livni said she had decided to move up the primary to the date that was best for Kadima and did not take into account “the will or caprice” of any of her rivals. She made reference to journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid and said Kadima must be ready to take him on.
“There are people entering politics and I think it’s positive when anyone wants to contribute, including Lapid, who is drafting a platform that is Kadima’s,” she said.
“But everyone must be responsible. His entering [politics] can either strengthen the bloc that wants to replace the government or it can weaken it. There is only one candidate for prime minister [in our bloc], and if Netanyahu remains prime minister, it’s a loss for all of Israel.”
Livni warned her rivals in Kadima that she would not let infighting destroy the party.
She rejected their demands to appoint an independent arbiter to run the race, and that she announce that she will stay in the party if she loses.
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“Whoever wants to leave can leave, but they must accept the verdict of the election,” she said defiantly. “No one can scold me. The election will be run transparently.”
Speaking to students at Tel Aviv University on Wednesday, Mofaz acted like he had already won the race.
“Tzipi Livni is no longer Kadima leader as of today,” he said. “Kadima was badly harmed by her weak, tired and ambivalent management. I will restore Kadima to its rightful place as the true alternative. Today, the journey en route to Netanyahu’s defeat has begun.”
MKs Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit, who fared poorly in the 2008 Kadima leadership race against Mofaz and Livni, may also join the race. But both hinted that they would back Mofaz if given a choice between him and Livni.
“I am glad Livni finally realized that Kadima must choose new leadership to prevent the party from falling off the political map,” Sheetrit said. “I definitely see myself heading the party and I will decide over the coming weeks whether to run.”
Dichter demanded assurances that Kadima’s budget would not be used as Livni’s private campaign fund.
“She deteriorated Kadima to depths we never thought we could reach,” Dichter said. “Under her leadership, we will end up like the Costa Concordia [the ship that capsized near Italy]. Last time, I said no matter who wins I would help them. But this time if she wins, I will have to consider whether to stay in the party.”
Both Labor and Likud released statements eulogizing Kadima and denouncing the party as no longer relevant.
“Livni’s attempt to present herself as the one who could topple Netanyahu is laughable and disconnected from reality,” Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich said.
“Kadima is confused, divided and lacks ideology, and its political path has ended. It never accomplished its diplomatic goals, and on socioeconomic issues, it is just as capitalist as Likud. Labor is the only alternative.”