Politicians spar with rival toasts

Top politicians from Likud, Labor and Kadima will complete with rival events hosting hundreds of activists.

It's party time in both senses of the word for Israeli politicians as the annual pre-Rosh Hashana toast season has begun. Top politicians from Likud, Labor and Kadima will compete over the next week, with rival events hosting hundreds of party activists to toast the New Year, demonstrate their political popularity and eat large quantities of apples and honey. The candidates who lost the recent leadership races in Likud and Labor are also expected to attack the winners. The season began Thursday with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni hosting an event for Kadima activists in Rehovot. She held another on Monday in Holon. Her Kadima colleague, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, hosted a large event in Herzliya Saturday night. Labor chairman Ehud Barak toasted on Sunday at his party's Tel Aviv headquarters. The next three days will be the most intense. On Tuesday, Barak will hold an event for kibbutzniks in Ramat Efal, while Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) will host his supporters in Petah Tikva, Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim (Kadima) in Herzliya and Labor MK Colette Avital in Tel Aviv. Wednesday will be the day for vanquished party leadership candidates. The Likud's Silvan Shalom is expected to bash his party chairman, Binyamin Netanyahu, in Ramat Gan at the same time that Labor's Ami Ayalon does the same to Barak in Kfar Saba. Ayalon's event will symbolically be held on the campus of Beit Berl Teachers College, which Barak wants to sell to cover the party's debts. The highlight of the season should be Thursday, when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Kadima) in Jerusalem, Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and former Labor chairman Amir Peretz in Tel Aviv will all compete for headlines. Their toasts will all be held at the same time with more than a thousand party activists invited to each event. The action will culminate Sunday with an event hosted by Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu toasting with reporters in the same city and a rare political event hosted by Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik for her Kadima supporters in Petah Tikva. When the toasts are over, Rosh Hashana will come and the politicians will go to synagogues to pray for a sweet year for their political careers.