Mofaz accuses Netanyahu of distancing Likud voters

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Wednesday criticized Likud leadership candidate Binyamin Netanyahu for distancing the party's traditional voters. Mofaz emphasized his own solidarity with the poor, stating his background as coming from a poor family "where the bread was sliced thick, but [the butter was] spread thin." He contrasted his upbringing with the background of some of the other Likud candidates who, according to Mofaz "were born with silver spoons in their mouths," never experiencing economic hardships. Mofaz claimed he was opposed to Netanyahu's economic policies as finance minister, saying that "compassion is not a dirty word." The defense minister adamantly rejected the claim that he was using the fact that he was an immigrant from Iran to gain electoral points. He said the use of the "race card" was wrong. Mofaz claimed that Israel is a country based on immigration and that all its inhabitants are new immigrants from one country or another. The Likud leadership candidate stated that he didn't immediately reject Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's invitation to join his new National Responsibility party out of courtesy to the prime minister. At the same time Mofaz emphasized his close ties with the Likud.