Livni slams Likud as Kadima slides in polls

Attacks on Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu set to escalate next week.

Livni what what 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Livni what what 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni attacked the Likud in a speech at Kadima's council meeting Thursday night, kicking off a negative campaign intended to boost the party in the wake of polls indicating that it has fallen far behind the Likud. Responding to the recent additions of well-respected public figures to the Likud's roster of Knesset candidates, Livni said that Kadima had the best leadership team while the Likud had not really changed. "I left the Likud because of its internal management problems and its inability to advance any plan on any issue," Livni said. "It's a party that can only say no on every issue. The Likud is still the same Likud, it still has no direction and the people are the same people." Kadima strategists said the attacks on the Likud would intensify next week with Internet advertisements highlighting historical inaccuracies and extremist statements Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu had made in the past. The ads will show Netanyahu praising the then-censored attack on a Syrian nuclear facility and remind voters of the budget cuts he made that hurt the poor. The strategists' goal is to counter the positive messages of politicians who fought with Netanyahu in the past and have now rejoined Likud and to emphasize that the race is a choice between the leaders of the two parties. A Dahaf Institute poll published in Yediot Aharonot and a Dialog poll in Haaretz Thursday found that the gap between Likud and Kadima, which were tied when the race began, had grown to six seats in Likud's favor. A Ma'agar Mohot poll broadcast on Israel Radio indicated the gap was much wider and that Likud would beat Kadima 34 seats to 23. In the last election, Kadima won 29 seats and Likud came away with 12. Ma'agar Mohot's Yitzhak Katz (who correctly predicted the results of the mayoral election in Jerusalem last week) found that only a third of Kadima voters from 2006 would cast their ballots for the party if the election were held now, while 26 percent would vote for Likud, and that of Labor voters from two years ago, only 37% of would pick Labor now, and 28% would choose Kadima. Labor continued its downturn in the polls, to only eight to 10 seats, from the current 19. All three polls found that Shas and Israel Beiteinu had caught up to Labor or passed it and that the leftist party being formed together with Meretz could also get more seats than Labor. Reacting to the polls in a speech to Kibbutz Movement manufacturers, Labor chairman Ehud Barak lashed out at Kadima, Likud, Meretz, Meimad and Ephraim Sneh's new Israel Hazaka party: "It is wrong to split the Left," Barak said. "Forming a new party on the Left is irresponsible and senseless." In an indication of increasing tension in Kadima, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit told Israel Radio that the polls were proof that going to the ballot box instead of forming a government was a "fatal mistake." He said Livni should have given the current coalition partners three days to join a new government with the same guidelines or face elections. Once negotiations began, it was imperative to form a government, Sheetrit said. Livni overcame one internal problem in Kadima on Thursday night when the council voted to allow Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz to be given the No. 2 slot on the party's candidates list without running in the primary. But she is liable to face another challenge if Vice Premier Haim Ramon decides to quit politics ahead of Sunday's deadline to join Kadima's Knesset race. Likud officials, meanwhile, already began looking forward to after the election. They said Netanyahu wanted to form a national-unity government and speculated that Livni would remain foreign minister. They said they did not believe it would be a problem for Livni to defend Netanyahu's positions abroad, because Shimon Peres had served as foreign minister under then-prime minister Ariel Sharon when the gaps between them were much wider than those dividing Netanyahu and Livni today.