'Livni's bond with Sharon exaggerated'

Sharon associates: Livni's campaign painting her as an heir of the Kadima founder based on a lie.

Livni cool 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Livni cool 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima leadership campaign, which paints her as the appointed heir of Kadima's founder, former prime minister Ariel Sharon, is founded on a lie, aides, friends and loyalists of Sharon said Sunday. Livni made news last Monday when she hired as her campaign strategists three members of Sharon's "ranch forum" of advisers: Reuven Adler, Eyal Arad and Yoram Raved. That same day, Arad said Livni's campaign would describe her as the true bearer of Sharon's legacy, and current prime minister Ehud Olmert's tenure as an aberration. In radio interviews last week, Livni recalled how she was the only politician present at Sharon's Sycamore Ranch when he decided together with the ranch forum to form Kadima. Arad spoke of Sharon's affection for Livni and described her as his fitting successor. But a former Sharon aide revealed Sunday that the only reason Livni was invited to that meeting was that she was justice minister at the time and he wanted her legal advice. He said she was never invited to other key meetings with Sharon and his advisers, because she was not close enough to the prime minister. "I can say decisively that Arik [Sharon] never saw anyone as his heir," the aide said. "He thought he would live until age 120. He respected and valued Tzipi, but not more than that." Other former Sharon aides, friends and party activists loyal to him agreed. They accused the ranch forum of exaggerating Livni's ties with Sharon for their own financial gain. "Eyal Arad is misleading people," said Baruch Hasan of Netanya, an aide who was so close to Sharon that he sent him to heckle then-finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu at a press conference in which he quit Sharon's cabinet in 2005. "Arik never talked about an heir. He liked her. He took her under his wings. She did her job as a minister under Sharon, but he didn't have expectations from her, and he certainly did not see her as an heir," Hasan said. He said that one of the reasons he supported Livni's main rival, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, was that Mofaz's political adviser is Roy Tomer, a former aide of Sharon's son, ex-MK Omri Sharon. Hasan said Tomer had succeeded in rebuilding Ariel Sharon's political camp in Kadima in support of Mofaz. "Arik trusted Mofaz, at least until he didn't immediately leave the Likud for Kadima when the new party was formed," Hasan said, referring to Mofaz's initial decision to remain in the Likud leadership race before he jumped ship to Kadima. A close personal friend of Ariel Sharon said the notion of him considering Livni his heir was just as farcical as Adler and Arad's campaign for Olmert, which also presented him as Sharon's heir when he ran for prime minister. "Sharon appointed her as a minister and he thought she made a good justice minister, maybe foreign minister, but certainly not more than that," the Sharon friend said. "He used people like Olmert and Tzipi politically, but that doesn't make them his heirs. If the ranch forum decides next time that Sharon's heir is [Immigrant Absorption Minister Eli] Aflalo, does that make it right? If Sharon would hear Livni presented as his heir, I'm sure he would laugh." Arad responded that Sharon indeed saw her as the leader who expressed his ideas in the best way and that was why he asked her to write Kadima's platform. He denied that she was invited to the meeting in which Sharon decided to form Kadima merely because of her being justice minister, saying that there were enough lawyers present without her. "She was there as the ideological partner of Arik," Arad said. "Trust me. I was there. She presents in the best way the legacy of Sharon on the diplomatic issue, and she was the first one who answered his call to come to Kadima."