Anger against Livni grows within Kadima

"The more she speaks, the more we fall in polls," critics say ahead of party's primary this week.

livni press 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
livni press 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Kadima will choose its Knesset list on Wednesday amid growing anger in the party over Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's failure to take advantage of the hawkish list the Likud elected to narrow the gap in the polls between the two parties. Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu succeeded in getting his nemesis, Moshe Feiglin, demoted to the 36th slot on the party's list last Thursday, but there is still a chance he could return to the 20th slot in which he was initially placed, due to appeals filed by former Likud MKs Michael Ratzon and Ehud Yatom, who were demoted along with Feiglin for technical reasons. Kadima officials had hoped that Kadima would grow in support due to the placement on the Likud list of Feiglin and former Likud rebel MKs. They also hoped that Netanyahu's obsessive behavior against Feiglin would cause him to lose support. But polls sponsored by three Hebrew dailies found that the Likud had lost no more than two seats and might have even gained a seat. They also found that Labor had gained seats following its primary at Kadima's expense. The most damaging poll for Livni was Shvakim Panorama's, which was broadcast on Israel Radio Thursday. The poll predicted that Likud would win 34-35 seats, Kadima 20-21 and Labor, which until last week was in single digits, 14-15. Livni's advisers said there was still plenty of time ahead of the February 10 election. They predicted that their party would gain in the polls after Wednesday's primary and after the hawkishness of the Likud list was internalized by the public. But Livni's critics in Kadima said that the more Livni spoke publicly, the more the party would fall in the polls. They pointed to two controversial statements she made Thursday to Tel Aviv high school students that even people close to her in the party admitted made them feel uncomfortable. Livni told the students regarding kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit that "we all want Gilad to come home, but there is always the risk of minimum casualties and it isn't always possible to bring everyone home." Regarding Israeli Arabs she said, "I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, 'Your national solution lies elsewhere.'" While some in the party called such statements "undisciplined" for a candidate, her advisers said they were "prime ministerial," because they proved that she was "a different kind of leader who always tells the truth, and always says things as they are, and that's why people trust her." But the statement about Israeli Arabs angered Arab members of the party, who threatened to boycott the race. Livni will make statements over the next few days urging voter turnout. Additional anger was expressed at Livni in Kadima by candidates who were hoping for her support but have been disappointed that she has not campaigned on their behalf. Privately, MKs who supported her in the Kadima leadership race said they were upset that their endorsements had not been reciprocated. Knesset candidates who supported Livni's rival in the leadership race, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, expressed similar anger over the weekend at him for not working on their behalf ahead of the primary. Others were annoyed to find themselves left out of lists of candidates who Mofaz supported in the race that were leaked over the weekend. Mofaz's list includes ministers Ze'ev Boim and Ruhama Avraham, MKs Ronit Tirosh, Shai Hermesh, Otniel Schneller and David Tal, and activists Yuval Zellner, Avner Barzani, Roni Ben-Hamo, Avi Duen and Akram Hason. Livni's associates denied reports that she was concerned Mofaz would succeed in electing a faction within Kadima that could later split from the party and join Likud. Livni lashed out at Likud in a speech on Saturday night at a rally in Or Akiva hosted by Negev and Galilee Development Minister Ya'acov Edri. She said the Likud had returned to the "bad old days" when Likud MKs were beholden to party activists now that Feiglin had proven his political power. "In the upcoming election, voters will decide our future," she said. "They will decide whether the country will enter a diplomatic stalemate and become more extreme, whether the world will have to push us. Whether the country will have vision, respect its citizens, bring peace and security and have a leadership its public believes in." Regarding her remarks on Israeli Arabs, Palestinian Authority officials also lashed out at Livni, the head of the Israeli negotiating team with the Palestinians, for suggesting that Israeli Arabs could only realize their national aspirations in a Palestinian state. "These statements don't serve the cause of peace or efforts being made to reach a comprehensive peace in the region. They show that Israel is not serious about a solution or the negotiations with the Palestinians," Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told Agence France-Press from Amman. "The way to peace is by respecting international legislation. The Israeli election campaign should not be exploited to create tensions," he said. Hizbullah accused Livni of wanting to expel Arab Israelis, but said it was not surprised by her position. "It is not at all surprising that an Israeli official would hold this position, because the Zionist plan is essentially based on expelling an entire population from its land," it said in a statement. Livni said in an interview with Israel Radio on Friday that at no point had she been calling to transfer Israeli Arabs. "I am willing to give up a part of the country over which I believe we have rights so that Israel will remain a Jewish and democratic state in which citizens have equal rights, whatever their religion," she said, referring to the creation of a Palestinian state. "I will fight for the rights of every citizen in the country," she said, adding that "there is no question of carrying out a transfer or forcing them to leave." Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report