Kadima hits the campaign trail

Livni: Our platform is essentially the road map that will bring us to a two-state solution

olmert waves toside 298  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
olmert waves toside 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Half a dozen ministers and MKs from Israel's newest and strongest party peddled its new "Kadima," or forward, puns to the shoppers of Tel Aviv's Azrieli Mall Monday. It was Kadima's first foray into the elections campaigning ahead of the March 28 election. While dominating in the polls, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima Party has very little infrastructure, and the event's organizers hoped to recruit a few more loyalists Monday. The politicians eagerly spoke with the few shoppers about the need to press "forward," in negotiations with the Palestinians, in the economy and ridding Israel of corruption, a lightly veiled jab at their erstwhile party, the Likud. Kadima's rising star, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, busied herself with responding to reports in the daily Ma'ariv of Kadima's increasingly dovish stance. "Our platform is that of the road map that will eventually bring us to the two-state solution," she told the cameras. To Darel Bernard, 76, she promised that Kadima would not be "corrupt like Likud." She promised that direct elections and party primaries preclude the need for a Central Committee, and the influence it exerts on politicians. "That way, a politician's responsibility will be to the public only," she said. The MKs and ministers, all of them former Likudniks, were in a jovial mood. Because the mall is privately owned, Kadima members were prohibited from dispersing propaganda. Like discreet lawyers, the politicians handed out Kadima business cards to passers-by. The MKs were accompanied by political hopeful Azzam Azzam, released from confinement in an Egyptian cell a year ago. Azzam has attributed his release after eight years in prison to Sharon and said he is contemplating joining politics, and Kadima specifically. Lighting candles at a clothing store, Minister of Transportation Meir Sheetrit asked for a "high-five" from a little boy who pilfered a chocolate-topped sufgania from a tray meant for the MKs. Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim seemed buoyant that he, too, is no longer at the beck and call of Likud's Central Committee members and their "indecent ways and corruption." Sheetrit claimed Kadima's new image would not be soiled by the addition of politicians like Tzahi Hanegbi, indicted for appointing cronies to political positions. "In fact, we have already registered 22,000 members," said the party's organizational chair. The support, he said, is overwhelming. Yossi Portal, 23, pushed through the bodyguards to photograph himself standing next to the politicians. But as Portal showed, looks can be deceiving. Earlier he stood at an intersection outside the mall clad in a Kadima sweatshirt handing out Kadima bumper stickers. Asked why he supported Kadima he answered: "I don't. I was hired to do this by a manpower firm. I am doing it because the economic situation in the south is crap and I needed the work." Asked if he would vote for Sharon's Kadima, he said, "Nah, I am a [Labor Party Chairman Amir] Peretz man."