Kadima 'exploiting Sharon's illness'

MKs concerned they can't campaign yet, but Kadima on television 'all day.'

peretz good pic 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
peretz good pic 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Likud and Labor MKs accused Kadima on Sunday of exploiting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's hospitalization - and the subsequent unofficial moratorium on politicking - for political gain. Labor chairman Amir Peretz and Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu continued their policy of refusing to answer political questions while Sharon's fate remains undecided and enforcing a ban on political events in their parties. But Likud and Labor MKs said they were frustrated that they could not campaign ahead of their primaries, while Kadima MKs are on television all day extolling the virtues of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The MKs cited three major examples of politicking on Kadima's part. Olmert called an economic press conference on Sunday in which he claimed credit for the economic turnaround that Netanyahu attributes to himself. Olmert appointed Minister-without-Portfolio Tzahi Hanegbi on Thursday to head Kadima's campaign in his stead in an effort to prevent him from returning to the Likud. And MK Shimon Peres praised Olmert in speeches and television interviews that received widespread coverage. Olmert's spokesman Hagai Elias responded that the press conference was called a month ago and that a successor was required at the helm of the Kadima campaign. He said that Olmert had done everything possible to act statesmanlike and refrain from politicking. Peretz's spokesman issued a statement slamming the Olmert press conference, saying that "at a time when Sharon is fighting for his life and every faction is refraining from political activity, Olmert and Kadima are acting as if nothing has happened." Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who is fighting for a top slot on the Likud list, said he believes there is no need anymore to not talk politics, despite Sharon's ongoing condition. He said he told Olmert that the Likud was ready to give him a tough fight. "Our opponents are dealing with politics and we are na ve to refrain from it," Rivlin said. "The time to stop talking politics is over. The transition was made from Sharon to Olmert and the crisis has passed. The Likud should now feel free to leave the government, sit in the opposition and tell the public that the country can be run better." Thursday's election for the Likud's Knesset slate is only three days away, but Sharon's medical condition has put a stop to the carnival atmosphere in the party. Netanyahu has enforced a moratorium on political campaigning, much to the chagrin of the candidates who were relying on their last few days on the campaign trail to give them the boost necessary to score a spot on the Likud's crowded Knesset list. Ahead of the last Likud primary three years ago, there were political rallies hosted by different candidates every night, with each trying to outdo the other with free food and party favors. In the days since Sharon's second stroke, events nationwide have been canceled, including massive gatherings hosted by MKs Uzi Landau and Rivlin and Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz. "Everything has been messed up by Sharon's condition," said a Likud candidate who is not an MK. "I was depending on those campaign events to meet people who don't know me. I can't call strangers at home when they are watching the news about Sharon on TV. The newspapers aren't writing anything. It's terrible." A source close to Sharon said he wished all the politicians did a better job of respecting the prime minister during this critical time for him. "We hope everyone shows the proper respect - even the politicians," he said.