Livni kicks off campaign by bashing Olmert

"When the public gives its mandate, it wants to know it can trust elected officials," says foreign minister.

livni good 224 88  ap (photo credit: AP)
livni good 224 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni began campaigning for the Kadima leadership Wednesday with two speeches in which she attacked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and vowed to do his job better. Livni held a rally at Kadima's Tel Aviv branch that attracted more than 150 party activists. She also spoke to a sympathetic crowd of activists for good governance at the Jerusalem Conference of the Movement for Quality government. "When the public gives its mandate, it wants to know that it can trust its elected officials and not that the people who are in power consider their own future and not that of the citizens of the country," Livni said in the event at Jerusalem's International Convention Center. Livni made a point of never mentioning Olmert by name in either speech, but it was clear to the crowds at both events that she referred to the ongoing corruption scandals that are threatening to end his premiership, and meant to establish herself as the clean alternative who could be an antidote to the prime minister's alleged corruption. "It has to be clear that if people commit a crime they will be punished," Livni said. "I don't accept that if something is not criminal, it's ok. A society where whatever is not criminal is acceptable is a society that lacks norms and values. When a politician crosses red lines, it must be clear that there is a price to be paid." In her first political rally since Olmert initiated primaries in Kadima, Livni vowed to change the electoral system and continued her theme from the afternoon - that voters should demand that their politicians serve the public and not themselves. "Politicians too often think only about what their vote will look like when elections come instead of what is good for the nation," Livni said. "We promised to change the electoral system before the election and this too I intend to keep. I believe we can restore the public's faith in politics." Livni recalled the thought process that went into forming Kadima when she participated in its founding meetings on former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's ranch. She hinted that Olmert diverted the party away from its initial goal of serving as an alternative to existing political frameworks, which had been seen as corrupt. "We promised then that Kadima would be different and I intend to keep that promise," Livni said. "The initial feeling that Kadima would be different ended at one point but it has returned. People are telling me on the street we can bring Kadima back and you are the one to do it." Livni said that she, unlike other politicians, always voted according to her conscience and not according to what was politically beneficial. She said she still believed it was right for Israel to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and she said that it was still possible to return if necessary. The only two MKs who attended the rally to support Livni were Shlomo Mula and Amira Dotan, but Livni's spokesman said no MKs were invited and they came at their own volition. Mula accused Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu of piggish capitalism and Labor chairman Ehud Barak of political zigzagging. "I don't think you have to be a general to lead," Mula said. "The time has come for Kadima to get out of two years of stagnation. We need people with a spine who are not afraid to say what they believe in and that's only Tzipi Livni."