Livni vows to topple Hamas if elected PM

Says Israel must "take steps" to return deterrence; Kadima working to win voters back from Likud.

livni olmert cabinet 224 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
livni olmert cabinet 224 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Kadima leader Tzipi Livni issued her strongest overture to center-Right voters on Sunday when she vowed that if elected prime minister, she would bring down the Hamas regime in Gaza. Speaking to Kadima's candidates at the Knesset, Livni sought to attract voters who are undecided between Kadima and Likud. Kadima strategist Eyal Arad said she would continue to air such views to attract voters who backed the party when it was led by prime minister Ariel Sharon but left afterward. "A government under my leadership would topple Hamas in Gaza using military, economic and diplomatic means," Livni told the top 40 candidates on her party's list. "As long as Israel is fired upon, Israel must respond to restore its deterrence and stop the fire. "That's what the government must do and will do under me." Livni also addressed centrist and center-Left voters, warning them that voting for any party to the left of Kadima would weaken her attempts to prevent Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu from becoming prime minister. "The struggle in this election is between me and Bibi," Livni said. "The choice of ballot is between Kadima and Likud. Whoever doesn't vote Kadima, votes Likud." A Teleseker poll published over the weekend in Ma'ariv found Likud and Kadima tied at 30 seats each. Arad said the elections were far from over, because there were many undecided voters who mistrusted Netanyahu but were not sure whether to go back to Kadima. He also called Netanyahu a coward for avoiding a debate. Arad denied criticism of Livni that she was temporarily adopting right-wing views ahead of February's election. He said that Livni opposed the just-ended, six-month cease-fire with Hamas from the start, but she refrained from criticizing it publicly until recently because she did not want to fight with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Her views were never really exposed to the Israeli public until now, but she comes from Likud and she was always center-Right," Arad said. "The elections are over who will be prime minister at a time of crisis, and we want the public to keep that in mind when they vote." Regarding Livni's attempt to also win voters from the Left, the Kadima campaign's message would be "if you vote for some 'comfort party,' you will get Bibi," Arad said. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz would be exposed more to the public ahead of the election, Arad said. Mofaz vowed to campaign hard for Livni for the rest of the campaign despite their differences. "Livni has skills in certain fields, and in the fields in which she doesn't have the necessary experience, there are enough people on the team who will be around her who will support her," Mofaz said earlier Sunday in an interview with Army Radio. "We have a good team in Kadima that has answers on every field of life: in security, social affairs, the economy and education." Asked whether Mofaz wasn't criticizing Livni for lacking skills in those fields, Arad said there was nothing wrong with admitting that there were people in Kadima who were stronger than her on those issues. He said that her skills were in leadership. Mofaz denied reports that he attempted to draft a mini-faction in Kadima in last Wednesday's primary in an effort to eventually split the party and take a third of its MKs back with him to the Likud. "The spin doctors who dictate the press's agenda are mistaken and leading others astray," Mofaz said. "If I wanted to build such a camp, I would have done it. I am announcing that I don't intend to move to the Likud."