Itzik seeks to keep Kadima from breaking up

Knesset speaker trying to formulate "pact" between candidates for the party's leadership.

dalia itzik 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
dalia itzik 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As the four candidates for Kadima chairman raise the heat on the primary race, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik is trying to formulate what associates call a "pact" to keep the battle from further dividing the embattled party. Itzik has been holding meetings with other key Kadima members to marshal support for her plan, which aims to keep the campaigns "respectful," as well as seeking solutions - like promising the runner-up the post of deputy prime minister - to prevent losing candidates deserting the party's ranks. Sources close to Itzik said that should the "pact" be approved by relevant participants, including all of the candidates, the Kadima central committee and the Elections Committee, run by MK Tzahi Hanegbi, it could reach the final stages of formulation by the middle of the week. In the meantime, campaigning continued. Following in the tracks of Labor Chairman Ehud Barak and Kadima primary front-runner Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz also visited Washington over the weekend, but the distance from Jerusalem did not keep Livni's closest challenger from campaigning to become head of the government. "A national unity government is the answer. If the Likud doesn't want to join, there are other parties in the Knesset and I am certain that they will join a coalition led by me," Mofaz said. "My ability to form a national unity government, a national emergency government, is extremely high." He said a number of parties had already come to him to discuss their participation in a government under his leadership. Mofaz, who has pinned his hopes on pushing his experience as chief of the IDF's General Staff, emphasized that forging a broad coalition was important to create "governmental stability because Israel is facing large, existential security challenges." His comments came hours after two surveys published in the largest Hebrew-language dailies showed him still trailing Livni. "I wouldn't recommend that anyone predict the future on the basis of the polls," he said. "It is a matter of the mood and it will change. I am certain that I will win the primary." A Yediot Aharonot poll published on Friday indicated that in a two-horse race for the Kadima chairmanship Livni would beat Mofaz by 51 percent to 43%. According to the poll, Livni would also win in the first round of the primary if all three of her opponents remained in the race, taking 41% as opposed to 32% for Mofaz and 13% and 10% for Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, respectively. The poll also gauged the performance of Kadima if a general election were held now with either Livni or Mofaz as its candidate for the premiership. Despite the fact that the foreign minister would garner Kadima twice the number of seats as Mofaz - 30% of the electorate - she would still lose to Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud. In both scenarios, the Labor Party chaired by Defense Minister Ehud Barak fell short of 20%, with 17% in a contest against a Kadima headed by Mofaz and only 15% against Livni. Two percent of Likud voters would also migrate to a Kadima led by the foreign minister, but again, this would still not suffice to best Netanyahu. A poll published Friday by Ma'ariv showed similar trends but put the difference between Netanyahu and Livni in a general election at more than 14 percentage points, with Kadima falling to 14.8% vs 39.5% for Likud in the event that Mofaz beats Livni in the September 17 primary. The Ma'ariv poll also gave Barak less than 20% of the vote with either Livni or Mofaz in Kadima's top slot. Elie Leshem contributed to this report